Double Duty: MAPP’s Dual Degrees Prepare Students for a Changing and Challenging Built Environment

By Maggie Haslam / Feb 3, 2020 / Updated Apr 29, 2020

Dual Degrees graphic
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Graphic by Pete Morelewicz.

Can where you live determine how long you live? A growing body of evidence is confirming what health experts and urban planners have been agreeing on for decades: that urban characteristics like access to green space or a walkable commute directly influence human health, from rates of depression to high blood pressure.

Now, two new dual degrees—a Master of Community Planning and Health Administration and a Master of Community Planning and Public Health—offer students an opportunity to bridge the two disciplines, preparing them to forge healthier cities as emerging professionals. The dual offerings, along with a Master of Community Planning and Information Management and a Master of Historic Preservation and Landscape Architecture are the latest dual degrees available to students at the School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation (MAPP). The new programs bringing the total number of dual degree options offered at MAPP to 15, the largest number at any school in the country that specializes in built environment-related studies.

“We have had a long history of offering interdisciplinary degrees because, frankly, creating a vibrant, sustainable built environment is not relegated to one discipline,” says Donald Linebaugh, Dean of the School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation. “It requires many experts at the table and, increasingly, knowledgeable practitioners who can bridge the disciplines they represent.”

Launched in 2008 with the school’s first dual degree in architecture and historic preservation, MAPP’s interdisciplinary dual degree programs address the increasingly complex challenges facing communities worldwide, including issues around affordable housing, stormwater surges, urban blight, human health and the preservation of the built and natural environment. A double concentration also helps professionals navigate allied fields that often overlap, giving them unique perspectives.

“More and more firms are handling everything in house, overseeing a project from financing and design all the way through construction,” said Kristen Tepper, MAPP’s director of career services. “They are looking for the whole package so, if you’re an architect and a planner or have a degree in real estate development and design, you’ve got a leg up.”

With partnerships spanning across the school and campus and within the university system, MAPP’s dual degrees offer a tailored yet comprehensive study of the built environment, including architecture, preservation, planning, real estate development, history, anthropology, public policy, law, public health and business. More than simply two concentrations running in tandem, dual degrees benefit from the collaboration of the participating departments in project work, lectures, tailored coursework and advising. Both dual degrees in urban planning and public health are a partnership between MAPP and UMD’s School of Public Health.

"Many of our public health students understand the importance of the built environment to public health and envision careers that will incorporate principles of the built environment into their public health practice,” said Steve Roth, associate dean of academic affairs at University of Maryland’s School of Public Health. “The dual-degree program with the Master of Community Planning was a natural for us."

The program’s newest offerings look to preserve the urban fabric’s past while shoring it for the future. The dual degree in urban planning and information management, a partnership between MAPP and the iSchool, will prepare students to meet the challenge of devising the next Smart Cities—automated, tech-driven and sustainable communities of the future. Meanwhile, the Master of Historic Preservation and Master of Landscape Architecture combination concentrates on the preservation of cultural landscapes as a way of reinventing the past for use by people today and as a tool to reinvigorate communities. A 16th dual degree in historic preservation and American studies is in the works for later this year.

“How do you keep a landscape or treasured building that’s been around for 100 years so that it serves the community in the future?” says Dennis Pogue, director of the Historic Preservation Program, who argues that the concept of preservation is strengthened when combined with another discipline. “The dual degree helps expand that work by giving students the expertise they need to guide how communities develop.”

Learn more about the dual master’s degrees offered at MAPP.