Urban Studies

Group of students talking at a table in Bryant Park

Program of Study

Taught by experienced, dynamic faculty, the Urban Studies Program offers an intellectually rigorous foundation in the disciplines that focus on contemporary city life, urban culture, and urbanization, with emphasis on equality, diversity, inclusion, environmental sustainability and social justice. Through the lenses of history and literature, sociology and anthropology, political science and economics, psychology and environmental science, students explore the foundations, structures, and character of cities while considering their future development. The theoretical frameworks, conceptual tools, and research methods the Program instills provide a solid background for careers in urban policy, government, law, civil/public service and administration, real estate, journalism, community organizing, and regional or urban planning.

Using New York City as its laboratory, the Program guides students in navigating urban systems such as housing, transportation, health care, and education. As they investigate municipal structures and local communities, students develop analytical and practical skills and perspectives on urban development. Moreover, Urban Studies majors perform fieldwork in urban communities and the organizations serving them first-hand, allowing students to preview socially and environmentally relevant careers they can pursue upon transfer to a baccalaureate program.

Urban Studies is integral in the contemporary global context. By applying interdisciplinary analysis and research skills to the long-term vision of social change, economic development, and environmental sustainability, students learn to view cities as living organisms that have wide-ranging impacts not only on urban residents, but also the population of the world and international markets, movements, and trends. This broad perspective informs the deep, nuanced understanding of modern cities and strategic, critical thinking that Urban Studies graduates carry into further higher education and both public and private sector professions.


The Urban Studies Program empowers students to explore and understand the government, economics, services, and lived experiences of urban communities. Working individually and in teams, students engage with interdisciplinary concepts and practices of urban planning, social research, social justice, and the built environment. Students gain and create knowledge about how cities work so they can improve them.

To promote career readiness within the curriculum, the Program implements course design and experiences that promote and incorporate the National Association of College and Employers (NACE) Career Competencies:

  • Critical Thinking/Problem Solving
  • Oral/Written Communication
  • Teamwork/Collaboration
  • Digital Technology
  • Leadership
  • Professionalism/Work Ethic
  • Career Management
  • Global/Intercultural Fluency

Program Learning Outcomes

Upon successful completion of the Urban Studies program, students will be able to:

  • Connect everyday urban experiences to theoretical perspectives/frameworks/lenses and research about cities;
  • Conduct quantitative, qualitative, and secondary source research to investigate urban problems using various sources (e.g. planning documents, maps, census data, journals, magazines, newspapers, textbooks, photography, interviews, surveys);
  • Identify significant occurrences in urban history and explain their relevance to modern cities;
  • Analyze how political structures, policy development, and governance processes operate in cities;
  • Evaluate how multiple stakeholders (individuals/communities/institutions/government agencies) are affected by a particular issue and understand their perspectives; and
  • Examine, analyze, and engage the interdependence of critical urban social, economic, and environmental issues, with an emphasis on urban social justice.

Urban Studies News

February 3, 2022

karen g. williams, Assistant Professor of Anthropology

“As an anthropologist, one of my aims is to challenge students to understand what it means to think anthropologically about a particular social problem; that is, how might one learn to critically examine so-called ‘natural’ states of being through a cultural lens? And how are micro processes of the everyday reflective of macro processes? Yeah, I secretly want them all to become anthropologists, but I understand that we need more than anthropologists for the world to work.”

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January 11, 2022

Dr. Molly Makris Co-Publishes Paper on Education during the Pandemic

Guttman’s own Dr. Molly Makris, along with Dr. Elise Castillo and Dr. Mira Debs have published Integration Versus Meritocracy? Competing Educational Goals During the COVID-19 Pandemic. This paper comes to fruition because of the Spencer Grant which supports research in an effort to improve education. 

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May 5, 2021

Dr. Alia Tyner Co-Authors Article Examining Project-Based Assessment in NYC Public Schools

The article “Reframing School Culture Through Project-Based Assessment Tasks: Cultivating Transformative Agency and Humanizing Practices in NYC Public Schools,” co-authored by Guttman Associate Professor of Sociology Dr. Alia Tyner-Mullings with Drs. Maria Hantzopoulos and Rosa L. Rivera-McCutchen, has been published in the Teachers College Record. Building on the argument that high-stakes testing policies are ineffective and “have exacerbated inequities in schooling across racial, economic, geographic, and linguistic lines,” the researchers focus on the transition to Project Based Assessment Tasks (PBAT) at ten New York City public high schools that are part of the New York Performance Standards Consortium. The authors, who “specifically consider[] the role that PBATs might play in shaping school culture,” have found them “a useful tool to engage students and teachers more actively as participatory actors in the school environment, particularly when overall school structures collectively support its integration.”

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April 8, 2021

Guttman’s Dr. Kristina Baines Organizes and Co-Hosts Anthropology Webinar Addressing Contemporary Issues

With Co-Founder and Co-Director of Cool Anthropology Victoria Costa, Guttman Faculty Dr. Kristina Baines organized and co-hosted the interactive virtual event Anthropology and the Public: Pressing Questions, Responsibilities and Opportunities, which aired live on YouTube on March 1, 2021. The webinar brought together a wide network of anthropologists, social scientists, educators, students, and practitioners of various fields to exchange and elaborate critical, multidisciplinary ideas that contribute to the public good. Featuring panelists and breakout sessions to address an array of contemporary social and environmental issues, the gathering included discussions concerning public health, medical anthropology, climate change and environmental justice, race and racism, media, journalism, technology, and art. The workshop included student facilitators from 5 continents, over 300 registrants, 150 active participants, including Guttman alumna, former Peer Mentor, and College Assistant Hannia Delgado and former Guttman staff member Baird Campbell. The event was funded through a grant by the Wenner Gren Foundation and co-sponsored by the New York Academy of Sciences Anthropology Division and Berghan Books.

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April 8, 2021

Guttman Faculty Drs. Makris and Gatta Publish Op-Eds on “Equitable and Just” Recovery for US Cities and Towns

Following the publication of their book, Gentrification Down The Shore, Guttman Urban Studies faculty Dr. Molly Vollman Makris and Dr. Mary Gatta released op-eds in The Progressive and ArcaMax, Politics section, on February 12, 2021. Based on research the co-authors conducted on Asbury Park, New Jersey, both articles respond to the Biden administration’s American Rescue Plan for economic recovery during the ongoing pandemic. In “Rescue Our Cities and Towns” and “Commentary: Rescue our cities and towns,” the co-authors emphasize “long-term progressive planning… that means a continued focus on economic security for working families, fully funded public education, universal health care, and environmental and racial justice measures.” By calling for an “equitable and just” policy direction, Drs. Makris and Gatta assert that cities and towns throughout the United States “will need sustained support from the federal government to survive and thrive in a COVID-19 world.”

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March 25, 2021

Urban Studies Program Coordinator Receives Spencer Foundation Grant for Research with Parent and Youth Activists in New York City

With Co-Principal Investigators Dr. Mira Debs (Yale University) and Dr. Elise Castillo (Trinity College), Guttman’s Dr. Molly Vollman Makris was awarded a Spencer Foundation COVID-19 Related Research Grant. Their proposal, “New York City School Integration Activists during covid-19,” was one of only 20 to be funded, out of a competitive pool of 1,369 “education research projects that would contribute to understanding the rapid shifts in education in relation to COVID-19.” The team’s research with parent and youth activists in New York City, beginning during the summer of 2020, has potential impacts on policy that are urgent in the context of the “twin pandemics of COVID-19 and systemic racism.” Along with its “anti-deficit orientation,” the study also met the criterion of “aim[ing] to understand and disrupt the reproduction and deepening of educational inequality caused by the COVID-19 crisis.” In Dr. Makris’ important work, which resonates with Guttman’s institutional dedication to equity, the Spencer Foundation “recognized that in times of great disruption and change, there are opportunities to remake and imagine new forms of equitable education.”

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March 22, 2021

Dr. Kristina Baines and Guttman Students Participate in Pandemic Journaling Project and Featured in The New York Times

In the Introduction to Urban Community Health courses she taught during the Spring II and Fall I 2020 semesters, Assistant Professor of Anthropology Dr. Kristina  Baines’ students interacted with the Pandemic Journaling Project (PJP) – a public research initiative developed at the University of Connecticut, which invites participants to respond to weekly prompts about their experiences living through the pandemic. Students could either create journal entries (written, audio or visual methods) or reflect on the journal entries that others posted on the public section of the site. The aim of Dr. Baines’ assignment is to involve students in documenting the COVID-19 pandemic through the eyes of everyday people rather than official narratives. In their responses, students were able to consider their contributions to this alternative history on personal and scholarly levels. Overall, Dr. Baines’ students have welcomed this space to share their thoughts and feelings about the impact of the pandemic on their lives.

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March 12, 2021

Guttman Political Science Faculty Featured Guest on Dr. Johanna Fernandez’s A New Day

On the historic date of January 6, 2021, Instructor of Political Science Prof. Douglas Medina was the invited guest on A New Day, a radio broadcast hosted on WBAI 99.5FM by Dr. Johanna Fernandez, author of The Young Lords: A Radical History and Associate Professor of History at Baruch College, CUNY. In the midst of the worst stage of the COVID-19 pandemic to date, the scholars discussed the US response to the coronavirus; the socioeconomic effects on workers and communities of color; the latest in workers’ rights movements; and most prominently, that morning’s dramatic results of the Georgia run-off election and the certification of the 2020 presidential election by Congress.

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February 18, 2021

Guttman UMOC Students and Faculty Contribute to Social Justice Work in New Jersey

Along with Guttman students and United Men of Color (UMOC) members Miguel Tejeda and Amari Dawkins, Urban Studies faculty Dr. Marcus Allen and Dr. Mary Gatta were selected as an evaluation team to review the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice’s Youth Justice Toolkit: A Community-Led Restorative Justice Approach. They spent July 2020 connected virtually, evaluating materials, collaborating with NJISJ staff, and writing a comprehensive review with recommendations, which was incorporated into the final toolkit. The resulting compilation of resources and practices is designed to inform restorative justice hubs throughout New Jersey on how “to remove young people from an unhealthy prison environment and successfully reintegrate them into their communities.” It will also prompt “communities to create community-based public safety systems that divert young people away from the criminal justice system in the first place, based on restorative and transformative justice practices and a trauma-informed approach​.”

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November 20, 2020

Guttman Urban Studies Faculty Drs. Makris and Gatta Release New Book

Dr. Molly Vollman Makris and Dr. Mary Gatta have co-authored Gentrification Down the Shore, an insightful ethnographic case study recently released by Rutgers University Press. The book explores the evolution of Asbury Park, New Jersey, a beach town vibrant in the late 19th and early 20th centuries before bearing the downward impact of broader structural socioeconomic changes on US urban areas.

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September 11, 2020

Dr. Maggie Dickinson, Assistant Professor of Interdisciplinary Studies

“I want for students to understand how their own curiosity can become a resource for self-education… that they can take control of their own education, follow their interests, and trust themselves to learn independently.”

“What drew me to Guttman is teaching,” Assistant Professor of Interdisciplinary Studies Dr. Maggie Dickinson proclaims with passion, “that community of faculty who are just so dedicated to understanding teaching as a practice and putting that at the center of their work.” The Online Course Development training she led with fellow Guttman faculty Dr. Kristina Baines, which became urgent as COVID-19 took hold in Spring 2020, embodied this value. “Dean Blake really supported us in making it a home-grown professional development. We drew on the resources at Guttman to put it together [so] it really built on the work that everybody was already doing.” Since coming to the College in 2016, Prof. Dickinson has observed the shift to recognizing “that we have faculty who are leaders in understanding some of these [pedagogical] questions and we can draw on them as experts.”

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June 12, 2020

Dr. Marcus Allen Speaks in Gotham Thought Leaders Series Webinar on COVID-19 and Higher Education

Alongside colleagues from CUNY and SUNY, Professor of Political Science Dr. Marcus D. Allen contributed to the Gotham Thought Leaders Series webinar entitled The New Normal for Higher Education: COVID-19 & Beyond. Moderated by Manhattan Deputy Borough President Aldrin Bonilla, the panel covered the experiences and implications of virtual learning, teaching, counseling, and supervising on students, faculty, staff, and administrators. Speakers also addressed how the sudden transition to virtual learning has influenced access, equity, inclusion, student learning and achievement, and career advancement. Panelists shared their insights on how they expect shrinking budgets to affect institutions of higher education, their workforce, and the students they serve. Finally, the participants reflected on both the challenges and opportunities presented by the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as its impact on their teaching and research.

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November 19, 2019

UMOC Scholars Present at Interdisciplinary Conference on Race

Seven first-year United Men of Color (UMOC) student scholars, accompanied by Professors Mary Gatta and Marcus Allen, presented at the Monmouth University Interdisciplinary Conference on Race on November 16th at Monmouth University’s campus in West Long Branch, NJ.

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November 15, 2019

Ernest Joseph Butts, Class of 2018, Is a Trailblazing Change-Maker

Ernest Butts, Guttman class of 2018, isn’t afraid of a full workload in the name of social justice. With a calm and confident demeanor, he talks passionately about wanting to be an advocate for change. Since he began his college journey at Guttman, Ernest has built an impressive resume that sets him well on his way to create a positive impact on his community.

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November 1, 2019

Prof. James Rodriguez Published in Racial Inequality in New York City Since 1965 Anthology

Assistant Professor of History Dr. James Rodriguez has been published as a contributor to Racial Inequality in New York City since 1965, recently released by SUNY Press.

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October 25, 2019

College Hosts Annual Gentrification Panel

On October 24, 2019, students of House 2, in collaboration with the Urban Studies Program, hosted the 6th Annual Gentrification Panel and Roundtable Workshops for Community Days. The panel featured activists from a variety of NYC organizations that are working to protect tenants, local culture, and affordable housing in New York City.

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October 21, 2019

Professor’s Op-Ed Discusses Effects of School Choice Policies

Associate Professor of Urban Studies Molly Makris co-authored an op-ed in the Philadelphia Inquirer. “The Segregating Effects of School Choice Policies” discusses the pitfalls and promises of school choice policies, and proposes proactively integration measures as a way to reduce opportunity gaps.

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May 29, 2019

Guttman Student Selected as 2019 Pulitzer Center Student Reporting Fellow

Ayanna Dickinson, a Guttman Urban Studies major, was selected to join the 2019 cohort of the Pulitzer Center student fellows. Ayanna will travel to Ecuador in July with Global Guttman and will report on the conservation efforts in the Chocoan Rainforest.

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May 10, 2019

Guttman Professors Selected as 2019 Mellon/ACLS Community College Faculty Fellows

The American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS) announced that Maggie Dickinson, Assistant Professor of Interdisciplinary Studies, and Andrea Morrel, Assistant Professor of Anthropology, are among the 2019 Mellon/ACLS Community College Faculty Fellows. This is the first year of this program, which supports research projects from humanities and social science faculty who teach at two-year colleges. The program is made possible by a generous grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

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January 31, 2019

Guttman Professor Co-Authors Article on Student Evaluations of Teaching

Gathering student feedback on courses and instructors has become routine in higher education, with this information influencing important personnel decisions, for instance, assigning instructors to open classes. In addition to reviewing the literature that examines and critiques student evaluations of teaching, the researchers apply the lenses of gender and race to further probe the common practice. Dr. Allen offers important guidance on the use of this type of feedback. “Our study suggests that written comments are a precious resource of information and may prove instructive to chairs and higher education administrators in detecting bias in student evaluations. Thus, when making personnel decisions such as promotion and tenure of faculty of color and women, decision-makers have access to all the information provided by the instrument to help contextual summative assessments of teaching.”

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January 25, 2019

Professor Co-Authors Article in ChalkBeat

Molly Makris, Assistant Professor of Urban Studies, has co-authored an article in ChalkBeat  titled, “We Study School Choice and Gentrification. Here’s How New York City Should Prepare for Amazon.” In the piece, Professor Makris and colleagues discuss the necessary measures New York needs to take to ensure that schools and neighborhoods do not suffer as a result of the business giant’s presence.

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September 27, 2018

Guttman Faculty Scholarship-Spring 2018-Scholarly Publications, Research Grants, and Presentations

In spring 2018, Guttman Community College faculty have published an impressive array of articles, books, and reports, received prestigious grants for their research and scholarship, and delivered important presentations at a variety of local, national, and international academic conferences and scholarly events. PUBLICATIONS Ryan W. Coughlan, Assistant Professor of Sociology, is the co-author of “Progressive […]

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June 5, 2018

Professor Discusses Child-Welfare System Inequities in Article

Andrea Morrell, Assistant Professor of Urban Studies and Anthropology, participated on a May 15 panel at The New School sponsored by the nonprofit Child Welfare Organizing Project. The event addressed the connections between mass incarceration and the child-welfare system. A May 24 article in The Nation, For Women of Color, the Child-Welfare System Functions Like […]

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