ISU graduate program among the top-ranked in nation

Ted Sics

A clearinghouse for urban planning information has ranked Iowa State’s community and regional planning graduate program the 13th-best in the nation.

The Community and Regional Planning department is part of the College of Design. Professor Douglas Johnston, chairman of the department, says the program “trains students to engage in long-term planning and forecasting activities for communities in the state and region.”

He said students also receive education on “land use and economic-development planning.”

Johnston said alumni enjoy a high employment rate. By the time they receive their degrees they are prepared for a wide spectrum of careers.

“Most . . . work for cities and states, Johnson said. “Others [work] for banks and other industries that engage in provision services like telecommunications.” 

Planetizen does not fully disclose the criteria by which they judge graduate programs. However, Johnston said he suspects the factors considered by the organization include the cost of tuition, enrollment numbers and student-faculty ratios.

The program at Iowa State stands out among others, because over half the students receive financial support from the school. After their graduation, the department helps students find positions in both teaching and research.

Since ISU does not offer a Ph.D. in Community and Regional Planning, most students do not go on to become academics. Rather than focusing only on research, they do coursework that replicates conditions that they will encounter in their careers.

Students may “engage with different communities through studio coursework” and consult on different projects to gain real-world experience.

“[A] number of our students have internships [in Ames],” Johnston said. “In addition, we are engaged in statewide planning initiatives and regional initiatives as well.”

The department also conducts research on behalf of a number of different entities, including state and federal governments.

Students may seek dual-degrees, pairing community and regional planning with architecture, public administration, agriculture or transportation.