Our school consistently has a mix of domestic and international students

Students and faculty in Diwali

Our international students are primarily from China, Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Vietnam, and also from Nigeria, Ghana, Angola, Sudan, Kenya, Iraq, Iran and South Korea. We often have one or two Fulbright students each year representing countries such as Angola, Mozambique, Ukraine, Mongolia, Russia, Albania, Indonesia, Haiti, Philippines and Zambia. Students from outside of the U.S. bring different ideas and perspectives to class discussions and projects giving our courses a more world view of planning. We additionally have a reciprocal agreement with Dortmund University in Germany and have their students spend a semester in our school as well.

The Planning program incorporates an international perspective into coursework and travel abroad. The planning curriculum trains students to understand urban problems anywhere in the world and formulate solutions for them. 

Study Abroad

One effective way to develop a quick understanding of global urban problems is to take a study abroad course focused on urban planning. Students in such courses get to experience first-hand urban problems quite different from those that are commonly found in the U.S. They also get to see innovative solutions to those problems that reveal new ways to tackle problems back home in the U.S.

Sustainable Development in India

The University of Iowa typically offers a 3-week international course during the Winter semester to study housing and sustainable development in India. The title of this course is Sustainable Development: The Kerala Experience. The course dates vary, typically beginning at the end of December and students return to the U.S. a day before spring semester courses begin (mid-January).

India is undergoing rapid urbanization. In 2011, about 25% of India’s 1.2 billion population lived in urban areas; by 2050, this proportion is expected to double. Over the next 35 years or so, India will add about 300 million residents to its cities. This pace of urbanization comes with financial, administrative, and political challenges that would be daunting in a cash rich country. In a relatively poor country like India, the problems seem insurmountable at times. Yet, using remarkable ingenuity and common-sense, communities and cities have formulated innovative planning solutions to make urban development a bit more sustainable than it would otherwise be. While in India, students will get a very good understanding of India’s urban problems, meet with urban innovators who have created effective sustainable development techniques and visit with people whose lives, neighborhoods and cities are much improved from these innovations. A short video from a recent trip is available here.

Students riding an elephant in India

This course is structured as a three semester hour graduate-level elective course that counts towards the housing and community development; economic development; and land use and environmental planning concentrations of the master’s degree. Students from other U.S. and Canadian universities also enroll in this course. A few very motivated upper-level undergraduate students may be selected to participate each year and will be exempt from completing a research paper that is required of all graduate students. 

This course is taught by URP faculty member, Jerry Anthony, who was born in India and has extensive knowledge about planning issues there.

For University of Iowa students, there are several funding opportunities for those going on this trip. Once accepted into the course, students will be given information on places to apply for financial assistance for the course.

More information on the course can be found in the course flyer. Please contact Associate Professor Jerry Anthony for further information.

The deadline for applications to participate in the course is in mid-September.

Courses on Campus

Many URP core and elective courses include international planning components.

  • Megacities focuses on understanding and addressing planning issues facing large cities and mega-regions, with an emphasis on fast-growing cities in developing countries.
  • Environmental Policy surveys and compares U.S. and international policies on 15 environmental issues, as well as global environmental treaties.
  • Modeling Dynamic Systems, a second-year core course, introduces students to global environmental and economic development planning and governance organizations and activities, and employs global simulations and international case studies on food systems planning, active transportation, and climate adaptation and mitigation.


Six of the faculty in Urban and Regional Planning have an international dimension to their teaching and research.

  • Professor Lucie Laurian conducts research in the planning evaluation and implementation in the U.S. and New Zealand. She additionally researches environmental injustice and public participation in decision-making in the U.S. and France.
  • Assistant Professor Scott Spak studies climate and environmental planning in global megacities, with long-term research studies and collaborations in Chile and India.
  • Associate Professor Phuong Nguyen has research interests in public finance and public policy in education, health and transportation in the United States and Vietnam.
  • Associate Professor Jerry Anthony teaches three sustainable development courses that have an international focus: a Winterim course in India, a summer course in Hong Kong and a Big Ideas course in Fall. He also conducts research on urban growth issues in developing countries, and is currently engaged in a 6-year research study on wood-burning cook-stoves in India and Ghana funded by multiple organizations.
  • Associate Professor Haifeng Qian has presented and published on cross national entrepreneurship.
  • Associate Professor of Instruction Steve Spears’ cycling safety research has been presented in Bologna, Italy to solicit feedback on research methods from transportation professionals in Europe.