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Urban Studies program approved for Tri-Campus
May 10, 1999

program leading to an undergraduate degree in urban studies, preparing students to be urban planners, town government officials, economic development leaders or a variety of other service providers in the public or private sector, has passed muster to become the first four-year program in place for the Tri-Campus system.

The multidisciplinary program, approved by the Board of Governors for Higher Education on April 21, will begin offering courses at the Tri-Campus, leading to a bachelor's degree, in September, says Thomas Cooke, an assistant professor of geography and director of the program.

"This program not only prepares students to be leaders, but it prepares them for a variety of graduate level programs, should they choose that path," Cooke says, "and it puts the urban experience in context. A lot of kids live in urban areas, but they're not aware of what the city means to daily life ... this is about educating people."

An urban program studies has been offered at the Storrs campus since the mid-1970s, says Peter Halvorson, a geography professor and chair of the urban studies committee. He said it was once a popular program, with more than 60 majors enrolled, but it began losing its luster after Ronald Reagan became president, and urban issues were pushed to the bottom of the national agenda. Realizing this, he says, fewer students enrolled in the program, and it lost some of its focus.

Now, however, national and state politicians across the country are making urban areas a priority, and Cooke has been charged with revitalizing the program and consolidating the regional programs with the Storrs-based program.

Cooke says he hopes to introduce concentrations within the urban studies area, so students can focus on a particular area of study, including economic development, social services, regional planning or public policy, for instance.

"People who study this field should be able to make valid judgements about whether the (New England) Patriots moving to Hartford would have been a real economic development tool," says Cooke. "I think that students who complete this program will be able to handle that, to make an educated conclusion - about the Patriots and hundreds of other issues."

Richard Veilleux