Message from the Chair

Welcome to the Department of Urban and Regional Planning at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa.

Hawai’i is fertile ground for exploring several key planning challenges of our time — from changing urban form and multi-modal transit alternatives to issues of food security, environmental sustainability, resilience of coastal communities, natural hazards and climate change adaptation. Given its unique history, it also facilitates inquiry into critical questions about social justice, inequality and disenfranchisement.

The pronounced intersection between the natural and built environments of our island context presents opportunities and challenges alike. For instance, a limited supply of developable land exacerbates the housing crisis and tradeoffs among development, agriculture, and open space. The closing down of the last remaining sugarcane plantation on Maui in 2016 has forced a rethink about managing land-use in a post-plantation economy. “King Tides” are forewarning us of the imminent threats of sea-level rise and coastal inundation. Coastal planning, therefore, needs to perform the tricky act of balancing private land interests with maintaining our beaches, our most valuable public asset. Tsunamis, hurricanes, volcanoes, floods, and other disasters intensify these vulnerabilities.

Protecting Hawai‘i’s rich ecosystems, which span mauka (mountains) to makai (oceans), is critical for the survival of our islands’ life, culture, and economy. Hawai’i is strongly committed to promoting renewable energy, with the goal of achieving 100% net sales of electricity from renewable sources by 2045. The Governor created a Climate Change Commission to explore both green house gas (GHG) reduction strategies and climate adaptation; county governments have similarly pledged to create their individual Climate Action Plans. There is also much impetus on enhancing livability. Honolulu is one of the 100 Resilient Cities designated by the Rockefeller Foundation. Kauai is the recipient of a TIGER Grant for the revitalization of the Lihue Town core.

Deeply committed to the ideals of social justice, our students share a sense of purpose in enhancing the quality of our neighborhoods. The transformative power of planning is evident in the achievements of our graduates, locally and globally; many have assumed leadership roles in government, private, and non-profit organizations. We are fortunate to enjoy generous support from our very engaged alumni family, the DURP ‘Ohana.

Our programs present opportunities for service learning, internships, and travel. Students have accomplished practicum projects in Vietnam, Indonesia, Puerto Rico, and the neighbor islands. They have also assisted local and state government agencies in conceptualizing and advocating for programmatic shifts in the juvenile justice system.

We invite you to consider our Master of Urban and Regional Planning (MURP) and PhD programs. Our comprehensive graduate curricula emphasize Environmental Planning and SustainabilityLand Use, Transportation and InfrastructureCommunity PlanningHousing,International Development Planning, and Disaster Management and Humanitarian Assistance. Our MURP program is nationally accredited and reputed. We also provide the following non-degree programs: the Certificate in Disaster Management and Humanitarian Assistance; the Professional Certificate in Urban and Regional Planning, for those currently working in the field; and the Planning Studies Certificate, for graduate students enrolled in other programs within the University of Hawai‘i at Manoa.

Priyam Das, Ph.D.
Associate Professor and Chair

August, 2019