ENVIRON 405 - Urban Sprawl: Policy and Politics
Fall 2021, Section 001
Instruction Mode: Section 001 is  In Person (see other Sections below)
Subject: Program in the Environment (ENVIRON)
Department: SNE Program in the Environment
See additional student enrollment and course instructor information to guide you in your decision making.


Waitlist Capacity:
Advisory Prerequisites:
ENVIRON 350 or 370.
May not be repeated for credit.
Primary Instructor:
Start/End Date:
Full Term 8/30/21 - 12/10/21 (see other Sections below)
NOTE: Drop/Add deadlines are dependent on the class meeting dates and will differ for full term versus partial term offerings.
For information on drop/add deadlines, see the Office of the Registrar and search Registration Deadlines.


This course investigates the political imperatives and policy frameworks at the local, state, and national levels that drive land development in America. It leverages political science, history, law, and urban planning to understand how public policy does (and does not) guide land use patterns, and how it might do so differently in the future. The course uses the phenomenon of urban sprawl as a lens through which to integrate multiple disciplinary perspectives in a rich and nuanced understanding of policy change. Students are required to exercise, in written and oral work, their faculties of analysis and (especially) synthesis, unpacking a complex policy challenge into discrete elements and then analyzing the interplay among these elements. The course is first and foremost a capstone experience in critical thinking, using a policy arena with which the students are familiar as a platform for that experience. The course is organized as a seminar. While it does teach a certain policy vocabulary and test students’ critical thinking and writing skills, it ultimately demands much more. It requires students to actively interrogate and synthesize the course material in order to generate a new, shared understanding. Students’ formal (written) and informal (in-class) commentary on the readings are central to the organization of each class session (along with brief lectures and small-group exercises). Their research projects culminate in memos that are required reading for the final weeks of the class. In short, the course expects students to exercise the skills that professional policy work and/or graduate school require: active synthesis of new understanding.

Course Requirements:

Midterm (5-6 pg) and final (7-8) take-home exams with specific questions around which students integrate their understanding of the material. Case study of urban sprawl in a particular American metropolitan area presented in an 8-page memo to the class. Case studies are researched and written over the course of the semester and presented in the final 2weeks of class. A rotating subset of students each post a question regarding one day’s reading to the class CTools site, questions that are then used in class to organize the in-class discussion. The course that is, in part, a semester-long intensive workshop in policy analysis, requires productive, informed, insightful contributions on a daily basis.

Intended Audience:

This course is intended for upper-level students, primarily seniors, with an interest in how policy can affect the built environment. It is especially appropriate for students considering graduate or professional work in environmental policy, urban planning, and/or law.

Class Format:

Learning Mode: All class meetings will be taught synchronously and In-Person for the Fall 2021 term.

Instruction Mode: The class meets synchronously twice a week in person.


ENVIRON 405 - Urban Sprawl: Policy and Politics
Schedule Listing
001 (LEC)
 In Person
MW 10:00AM - 11:30AM
8/30/21 - 12/10/21

Textbooks/Other Materials

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Syllabi are available to current LSA students. IMPORTANT: These syllabi are provided to give students a general idea about the courses, as offered by LSA departments and programs in prior academic terms. The syllabi do not necessarily reflect the assignments, sequence of course materials, and/or course expectations that the faculty and departments/programs have for these same courses in the current and/or future terms.

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CourseProfile (Atlas)

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CourseProfile (Atlas)