Fifty years ago or so, pioneering planning educator Harvey Perloff recommended that students with a planning degree be educated to be “generalists with a specialization.” In that tradition, Iowa seeks to balance the generalist perspective of its core courses with a choice of specializations—what we call concentrations.
Usually in their second semester, students develop an area of concentration by applying the concepts and skills developed in the first semester core courses to a specific field of planning. The purpose of the area of concentration requirement is to ensure that the student develops depth in a particular substantive area of planning by mastering a set of elective courses that together constitute a coherent program of study in that area.
There are five areas of concentration supported by faculty and course offerings within planning:
- Economic development
- Geographical information systems (GIS)
- Housing and community development
- Land use and environmental planning
- Transportation planning
Students electing a concentration in GIS must also have an area of concentration in one or more of the other focus areas. The course offerings and requirements for each area of concentration are described in the links above. Note that due to faculty development leaves and reduced teaching loads because of research projects and other circumstances, not all of the courses listed in the following sections dealing with areas of concentration will be offered every year.
Occasionally, students design alternative areas of concentration, subject to faculty approval, or combine two areas. For example, students can design a concentration in health services planning with appropriate coursework in the Departments of Health Management and Policy or Occupational and Environmental Health, or in human services planning with courses in the School of Social Work. For a list of possible alternatives, one should consult with one's advisor. It is emphasized that an area of concentration must be in a substantive field of planning; a concentration in a skill or research method, or in law, is not permitted, although coursework in a particular method may be an appropriate component of the student's concentration. Plans for a specially designed alternative concentration must be presented by the advisor to the faculty in a faculty meeting and approved by the faculty, before the alternative is allowed to be in force.