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The DuSU program is based on a close working relationship between doctoral students and their faculty advisors, who work together to develop a detailed course of study that takes full advantage of the resources available at Washington University and through our collaborative partners from around the country and world. Our program is STEM-designated.

Program Requirements

To earn the Doctor of Sustainable Urbanism degree from the Sam Fox School, students must complete 72 credit units of graduate work over at least three years. Students will typically complete the program in four years, but they may complete the program in as few as three years or as many as five years.

Of the total 72 units, 48 units represent course work to be completed in residence at Washington University, including required seminars and courses and approved elective seminars and courses. Thereafter, 24 units of thesis research and writing may be completed at Washington University or off-site if approved by the chair of urban design.

In order to graduate, students must:

  • Maintain satisfactory academic progress and standing
  • Pass Part One and Part Two of the General Examination
  • Fulfill residence and enrollment requirements
  • Demonstrate competency in teaching at the basic level and at the advanced level
  • Write, submit, and defend an acceptable dissertation in sustainable urbanism before a designated dissertation committee

General Examination

Much of the program’s course work and independent reading and study is focused on preparing students for their two-part general examination. The nature of this preparation varies widely depending upon the candidate’s background and research interests. Overall, the exam is a platform for the student to demonstrate a broad knowledge of evidenced-based research methods and the multidisciplinary frameworks of sustainable urbanism, as well as the best practices for sustainable urbanism and the technical knowledge base and skills necessary for implementing sustainability at a multi-scalar level in the city.


Teaching is another important component of each doctoral student’s course of study. Students often are given substantial teaching responsibilities, particularly in the introductory courses offered by the urban design faculty. Recently students have served as teaching assistants and/or instructors in theory courses such as Metropolitan Development, Metropolitan Sustainability, Metropolitan Urbanism, Public Space and City Life, and Informal Cities, as well as a number of urban design studios, including the Global Urbanism Studio that has engaged cities such as Shanghai, Tokyo, Singapore, Mexico City, Johannesburg, and Dubai.

Students also have the opportunity to work as research associates with faculty to enrich their academic experience and develop research project experience.

Points of Emphasis

Use statistical and visual analytical tools, including quantitative and qualitative research methods, geographical information systems (GIS), and techniques to analyze data sets and construct holistic research models.

Learn to construct the research reports and performance measurement systems necessary to clearly demonstrate evidence of a more sustainable city.

Develop leadership skills to engage an informed, involved citizenry in creative problem solving to achieve responsible individual and cooperative actions toward a society that is more sustainable and resilient.

Develop your own refined ethical framework and set of values that shape sustainable cities, which at a minimum would include economic, social, and place equity; environmental and cultural justice; intergenerational equity; and management and stewardship of the urban environment.