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History of the City and Regional Planning Program

For over a half century, Morgan State University’s City and Regional Planning Program and its antecedent programs have prepared students for careers in urban planning and development and helped students become leaders who have shaped and improved the lives of countless urban dwellers. The program’s hundreds of alumni serve in varied positions in Baltimore, across Maryland and across the country.

The development of the city planning program began with the establishment of the Urban Research Institute in 1963 (not to be confused with Morgan’s Institute for Urban Research). By 1970, the Urban Research Institute became the Center for Urban Affairs and began offering an undergraduate degree in Urban Studies and Community Services and a graduate degree in Urban Planning and Policy Analysis, in addition to other ancillary community service programs. The Institute was legislatively established by the State of Maryland in 1978. The graduate program was the first graduate planning program in the State of Maryland and the first such program at Historically Black College/University (HBCU).

During the early years, the graduate program in urban planning attracted a diverse group of working professionals, politicians, and planning consultants. The program has maintained its diverse student body. The program has long been an important source of planners for Baltimore City and Baltimore County’s respective planning departments and other planning agencies in the city and state. The program has maintained strong relationships with professional organizations such as the American Planning Association (APA), American Institute of Certified Planners (AICP), American Institute of Planners (AIP), the American Society of Planning Officials (ASPO), and the Association of Collegiate Schools of Planning (ACSP). Its reputation spread rapidly, and in 1974, became the first planning program at an HBCU to receive degree recognition (the forerunner of accreditation) from AIP.

In 1975, the Center for Urban Affairs became the School of Urban Affairs and Human Development and several other degree programs were added. Morgan State gained university status in 1975 and thus came a new mandate: to address and resolve urban problems and improve the lives of urban dwellers in Baltimore and beyond. The mandate resulted in the creation of five new urban-oriented programs including the Department of Built Environment Studies (BES). The implementation of this department led to a name change in the graduate degree from a Master of Arts (M.A.) in Urban Planning and Policy Analysis to Master of City and Regional Planning (M.C.R.P.). The new department also offered the university’s first professional graduate degrees in the disciplines of Architecture and Landscape Architecture; and an inter-disciplinary graduate degree in Urban Design.

In 1986, the Planning Accreditation Board (PAB) accredited the program and it became the first PAB-accredited program at an HBCU. Since then it has been continuously accredited and today is one of only four accredited planning programs at HBCUs and one of two such accredited programs in Maryland. The BES Department was re-designated as the Institute of Architecture and Planning in January 1991. In 2008, the Institute of Architecture and Planning became the School of Architecture + Planning (SA+P) and the program attained a departmental status at that time, becoming the Department of City and Regional Planning. In 2013, the program initiated a 3+2 year accelerated Bachelor of Science in Architecture and Environmental Design/Master of City and Regional Planning is the only such degree option in the state. In an effort to catalyze intellectual synergies and to foster transdisciplinary and collaborative engagements, in 2014 the Department became a program under the larger Department of Graduate Built Environment Studies, which also houses graduate programs in Architecture and Landscape Architecture. Even within this larger, multidisciplinary department, the program maintains its autonomy.

The program has a substantial history of community engagement and has served communities in Baltimore and Maryland through service learning projects, faculty research and pro-bono work. It has played a critical role in the Morgan Community Mile, a project that is a critical component of the university’s strategic plan (2011-2021), Growing the Future, Leading the World. The Morgan Community Mile is the foundation for a university-community partnership working towards identifying and implementing projects that will improve and sustain the quality of life in Northeast Baltimore. Other recent public service planning projects undertaken by the program include neighborhood improvement efforts in Park Heights, Pigtown, Station North and downtown Baltimore.