Campus News

New collaboration makes it easier for students to earn dual MUP, MPH

The training provided with the master of urban planning degree and the master of public health degree will give graduate students expertise in creating healthy places and communities.


Published December 22, 2017

“This is actually a perfect combination. People want to live healthy, and their environment has a huge impact on their health.”
Katia Noyes, specialization director
Master of Public Health program

The degrees themselves aren’t new. But the collaborative arrangement between the two UB schools that are offering them is.

The School of Architecture and Planning and the School of Public Health and Health Professions have collaborated to make it easier for graduate students to receive both a master of urban planning and master of public health in a shorter period of time. Previously, students had to earn both degrees separately. Both typically take two years each to complete.

Starting this fall, the two schools collaborated to create a more streamlined path toward obtaining both degrees in three years.

The training provided with the combination of the two degrees will equip graduate students with the skills critical for the successful integration of public health and urban planning. Students will gain expertise in creating healthy places and communities.

The MUP and MPH degrees will be awarded through UB’s School of Architecture and Planning and the School of Public Health and Health Professions, respectively. The new collaborative program reflects a growing synergy between the two schools, whose areas often overlap. Faculty, staff and students from both have been collaborating for the past several years through research projects spearheaded by UB’s Community for Global Health Equity, which includes researchers from many other disciplines as well.

“This is actually a perfect combination. People want to live healthy, and their environment has a huge impact on their health,” says Katia Noyes, one of three specialization directors for the MPH program at UB.

“Poor housing, terrible ergonomics at work, lack of opportunities for physical activity and exercise in our neighborhoods, lack of sanitation and limited access for people with a disability — all of these problems require the professional expertise of people who care about public health and are passionate about urban planning,” adds Noyes.

The combination of training in public health and urban planning opens up a range of job opportunities for graduates, says Bumjoon Kang, assistant professor of urban and regional planning and the specialization director for the MUP part of the program.

Graduates will be equipped to work for government and non-profit organizations — county or state health departments, hospitals and health care systems — as well as commercial and for-profit entities, such as consulting firms, design and construction companies, manufacturing and information technology.

A key component of the curriculum is training in geographic information systems, or GIS, a skill being used increasingly across a range of professions. In fact, UB’s Graduate Planning Student Association last year conducted an inventory of job postings for entry level planners and found that 80 percent of those positions sought people who had GIS training.

“The ability to use GIS as a tool to inform the work you are doing in public health or design and planning is incredibly beneficial,” says Shannon Phillips, assistant dean for graduate education in the School of Architecture and Planning. “It becomes an even more powerful tool when you can combine GIS skills with an expertise in both public health and urban and regional planning.”

Public health professionals are using GIS to map problems such as disease and health disparities, among others, to gain a better understanding of bigger-picture issues in the field. Urban and regional planners use GIS to create multi-layered maps that contain a variety of important data.

Students interested in the three-year program must apply separately to the MUP and MPH programs.

The MUP curriculum requires 52 graduate credits and is built around a core curriculum, two planning studios and a final thesis or project. For the final project, MUP students are assigned a municipality and challenged to create a piece of work that solves a problem that area is experiencing.

“We want our MUP students to draw from the work they’ve done over the course of their years here and make a contribution to that community through the lens of, for example, public health, or community health and food systems, or urban design,” Phillips says, adding that students use that project as part of a “robust portfolio” they will have created for their job hunting efforts.

The MPH program requires 43 credits and is offered with the MUP in three concentrations: community health and health behavior, health services administration, and epidemiology and environmental health. MPH students complete a field training project within their concentration, typically in the form of a paid internship with a minimum of 150 hours, but often more.

The program’s internship and job-placement efforts have proven to be incredibly successful, with 100 percent of MPH graduates either obtaining a job in their field of study or gaining admission to graduate school within six months.

“The capstone project really steps our students out into the field they are most interested in,” says Douglas McNabb Jr., director of graduate recruitment and enrollment services for the School of Public Health and Health Professions. “There are more job and career opportunities than there are students in the field of public health,” McNabb adds.