What is Urban Studies?


The city—culture, noise, excitement, poverty, diversity, crime, vitality, racial tensions—a conglomeration of contradictions, problems, and possibilities. This environment is explored through a unique, interdisciplinary major in Urban Studies.

The Mission of the Urban Studies Program is to provide students majoring or minoring in Urban Studies with a unique interdisciplinary learning experience that utilizes the Memphis urban environment as a context for developing and applying the skills needed to analyze and understand the complex processes and structures of city and urban life.

Why Should I Choose This as a Major?

Many Urban Studies majors select this major because of its interdisciplinary nature. Urban Studies has a base of three core departments: sociology, political science, and history. In addition to classroom study, students have the opportunity to apply their knowledge through internships, outreach programs, and fieldwork. From this program’s variety of components, students gain excellent skills for an array of careers and graduate school opportunities.

How Can I Use an Urban Studies Degree in the Future?

Urban Studies is an excellent major for students who intend to work in social, governmental, nonprofit, or church programs or attend graduate school. Furthermore, this major can lead to careers in other areas such as businesses with urban activities, banking, consulting, parks and landscape planning, a variety of nonprofit organizations, or environmental agencies. Urban Studies graduates work in agencies for which they interned, but many more stay in the Urban Studies field as they pursue rewarding careers. Many graduates spend time in Teach for America after graduation.

Why I Majored in Urban Studies

Our Urban Studies majors explain in their own words why they majored in Urban Studies:

“As one who is interested in getting into urban policy, it is essential that I know, see, and work with and in the reality of our urban environments. Urban Studies not only allows for this to happen, it demands that it happen—which I love. Whether we choose to ignore these areas or not, they are part of our community, and as such, social justice is our responsibility and my commitment.”  

“Urban Studies gave me the opportunity to take a variety of classes—history, political science, sociology, and even religion. I have enjoyed exploring all of these fields.”

“Urban Studies is extremely practical—by getting the chance to work at two internships, I will leave Rhodes with much more than just classroom experience.”

“I was drawn by the emphasis on poverty studies—from a community organizing, historical, political, sociological, and practical point of view.”

“I chose to major in Urban Studies because I was interested in the disparities between the public and private realms in education, representation, resources, and communities in general. I wanted to learn about these inequalities by actually going into neighborhoods.”

“I picked to be an Urban Studies major because the thought of being able to use your education to better the lives in the community around you is something that interests me.”

“I selected Urban Studies mainly because of the curriculum that you must have in order to graduate. The classes you must have make you open for so many different jobs after graduation in a ton of different areas.”

“I chose Urban Studies as a major because I discovered that I really love planning and executing projects.”

“As a native Memphian, I′ve always been intrigued by the dynamics of the city—the racial tension, the widespread poverty, the ever-expanding suburbs, and its rich history. By participating in the Urban Studies program, not only can I study the sociological and political trends that have led to Memphis′ current condition, I can also conduct my own research by being directly involved in local neighborhoods. The personal and experiential aspects of this program through fieldwork and internships have been just as significant as the academic aspect, if not more.”

“In most majors, students spend their four years learning theories and analyzing data. Being Urban Studies Majors, we spend our time applying theories and collecting data. The results are tangible. Once we leave after our four years, we can already see the difference we have made in the world.”

"I chose the field of Urban Studies as a major because there has always been a deep, burning desire inside of me to help people. Given my academic training here at Rhodes, it seemed like a perfect match to be able to learn about the urban context and apply it to real-life situations with the intent of positively affecting the lives of people every day. In short, Urban Studies gave me the tools necessary to build the foundation for the goals I planned to achieve."


Where can I find more information about Urban Studies from a national source?

    College Board provides an overall explanation of the Urban Studies major, as well as provides the general requirements. The site also have real testimonies from actual Urban Studies majors along with the opportunity to research the major futher through a program called, My Road.

College Board on Urban Studies Major