Program Requirements and Opportunities

Published annually, the Course Catalog sets out the requirements of the academic programs--the majors, minors, and concentrations. Each Bryn Mawr student must declare a major before the end of the sophomore year. Students may also declare a minor or a concentration, but neither is required for the A.B. degree. Students must comply with the requirements published in the Course Catalog at the time when they declare the major, minor and/or concentration.

The Course Catalog also sets out the College requirements. Students must comply with the College requirements published at the time they enter Bryn Mawr College.

For more information, visit the Catalog Homepage to view the current content. To view Catalogs from previous academic years, visit the Catalog Archives page.

Students may complete a major or minor in Growth and Structure of Cities. The interdisciplinary major challenges students to understand the dynamic relationships connecting urban spatial organization and the built environment with politics, economics, cultures and societies worldwide. Core introductory classes inegrate varied analytic approaches that explore issues of changing forms of the city over time and explore the variety of ways through which women and men have re-created global urban life across history and across cultures. With these foundations, students pursue their interests through classes in architecture, urban social and economic relations, urban history, studies of planning and the environmental conditions of urban life. Opportunities for internships, volunteering, and study abroad also enrich the major. Advanced seminars further ground the course of study by focusing on specific cities and topics.

Complementing the major, students may also choose to do a minor or a second major that allows them to expand upon  their focus in Cities with more specialized knowledge, whether in Environmental Studies, Economics, International Studies, Political Science or studies of language and culture. Students also may apply for the 3-2 Program in City and Regional Planning in their junior year, offered in cooperation with the University of Pennsylvania, after filling prerequisites there.

Major Requirements

A minimum of 15 courses (11 courses in Cities and four allied courses in related fields) is required to complete the major. Two introductory courses (185, 190) balance sociocultural and formal approaches to urban form and the built environment, and introduce cross-cultural and historical comparison of urban development. The introductory sequence should be completed with a broader architectural survey course (253, 254, 255) and a second social science course that entails extended analysis and writing (229). These courses should be completed as early as possible in the first and second years; at least two of them must be taken by the end of the first semester of the sophomore year.

Writing across multiple disciplines is central to the major, drawing on sources and models as varied as architectural and visual materials, ethnographic fieldwork, quantitative study, theoretical reflection and policy engagement. Students write and receive commentary on their arguments and expression from their introductory classes through their required capstone thesis. While most courses in the major have important writing components, City 229 acts as our primary writing-intensive course, asking students to draw upon the breadth of their interests to focus on researching, writing and rewriting within a comparative framework. At the same time, students are encouraged to use other classes within the major to develop a range of skills in methods, theory and presentations, oral and written.

After these introductory courses, each student selects six elective courses within the Cities Department, including cross-listed courses. At least two classes must be at the 300 level in Cities or cross-listed courses. Students should consult with advisors concerning other classes that might be integrated into the major.

A strong foundation in varied methods is intrinsic to the Cities major. In the introductory classes, students will be exposed to architectural and spatial analyses, qualitative and quantitative methods, and comparative case studies, based in an awareness of local and global histories. More specialized methods classes include CITY 217 (Social Science Methods), City 201 (GIS) and our architectural studio sequence (City 226/228), which allows students to make informed choices about careers in architecture and design. These classes, at the same time, speak to theory and data gained from other courses in Cities and related studies.

In the senior year, a capstone course is required of all majors. Most students join together in a research seminar, CITY 398, in the Fall of that year, writing a 40-60 page thesis on a topic of their choice, based on primary documents and original research and/or design. Occasionally, however, after consultation with the major advisers, the student may elect another 300-level course or a program for independent research. This is often the case with double majors who write a thesis in another field.

Finally, each student must also identify four courses outside Cities that represent expertise to complement her work in the major. These may include courses such as physics and calculus for architects, additional courses in economics, political science, sociology, or anthropology for students more focused on the social sciences and planning, or courses that build on language, design, or regional interests. Any minor, concentration, or second major fulfills this requirement. Cities courses that are cross-listed with other departments or originate in them can be counted only once in the course selection, although they may be either allied or elective courses.

Both the Cities Department electives and the four or more allied courses must be chosen in close consultation with the major advisers in order to create a strongly coherent sequence and focus. This is especially true for students interested in architectural design, who will need to arrange studio courses (226, 228) as well as accompanying courses in math, science and architectural history; they should contact the department chair or Daniela Voith in their first year. Students interested in a second major should consult with advisers early on. 

Students should also note that many courses in the department beyond the introductory sequence are not offered every year; this is true as well with regard to cross-listed courses. Finally, students must recognize that courses may carry prerequisites in cities, art history, economics, history, sociology, or the natural sciences and have limited enrollments because of space and technology (Architecture Studio, GIS).

Cities students should test their knowledge through engagement with cities worldwide beyond the classroom. Hence programs for study abroad or off campus are encouraged, within the limits of the Bryn Mawr and Haverford rules and practices. In general, a one-semester program is strongly preferred. The Cities Department regularly works with off-campus and study-abroad programs that are strong in architectural history, planning, and design, as well as those that allow students to pursue social and cultural interests and hone language skills. Students who would like to spend part or all of their junior year away must consult with the major advisers and appropriate deans early in their sophomore year. Internships are also an important component of the program either in the summer or for credit with faculty supervision.

For more than five decades, Cities students have created major plans that have allowed them to develop their interests in cities with an eye toward future engagement with architecture, planning, ethnography, history, law, environmental studies, mass media, public health, the fine arts, and other fields. No matter the focus, though, each Cities student develops solid foundations in both the history of architectural and urban form and the analysis of urban culture, societies, and policy. Careful methodological choices, clear analytical writing, and critical visual readings constitute the hallmarks of the major. Strong interactions with faculty and other students and alums that will continue even after graduation also characterizes the department as a growing and creative social cohort beyond Bryn Mawr and Haverford as well. 

Minor Requirements

Students who wish to minor in the Cities Department must take at least two out of the four required courses and four cities electives, including two at the 300 level. Senior Seminar is not mandatory for fulfilling the cities minor.

3-2 Program in City and Regional Planning

Over the past three decades, many Cities majors have entered the 3-2 Program in City and Regional Planning, offered in conjunction with the University of Pennsylvania. Students interested in this program should meet with faculty early in their sophomore year.


Contact Us

Department of Growth and Structure of Cities

Old Library
Bryn Mawr College
101 N. Merion Avenue
Bryn Mawr, PA 19010
Phone: 610-526-5334