Community Planning, Policy, and Design

Master of Arts

Master of Community Planning, Policy, and Design

The Community Planning, Policy, and Design Program will be terminated with internal and external processes forthcoming, and a teach-out program administered for existing students. 

The Master of Arts in Community Planning, Policy, and Design* (CPAD) degree program addresses the many dimensions of community building. It is the only urban design program in the United States that was founded with social justice and equality as core values.  Its innovative curriculum is designed to empower graduates to develop "progressive traditional" urban design skills while gaining knowledge of public policy, real estate economics, and practical transportation/land-use planning expressly to. The focus of the program is on the growing intersection of these skills and knowledge in today’s vibrant and increasingly complex development environment. CPAD is jointly housed in the College of Charleston's Riley Center for Livable Communities and the Historic Preservation and Community Planning program.

The program provides:

  • a rigorous core curriculum that will empower students to design cities, districts, and neighborhoods, and fortify their design skills with a practical knowledge of law and economics.a “progressive traditional” design ethos that is unique in the world, drawing upon the cosmopolitan classical architecture of Charleston to teach forward-looking, culturally pluralistic, sustainable, and beautiful architecture and urbanism
  • an in-depth engagement with the major components of modern public policy. Working with the Riley Center, students will build upon the legacy of famous Charleston mayor Joe Riley, learning the goals and instruments of local government in creating and sustaining healthy public life.
  • a firm commitment to teaching sustainability in all realms, across the board, using both traditional methods and high technology.
  • a rigorous study of Charleston’s booming real estate market, so that the economic realities of development are woven into design education from the start.
  • the possibility of concurrently earning an additional graduate certificate in Urban and Regional Planning.
  • a choice of electives dedicated to cutting-edge emerging issues, such as the transformation of dead shopping centers or designing for automated vehicles, allowing each student to develop a program of study best suited to his or her career goals.
  • internship opportunities with the City of Charleston and local design and development firms.
  • international experiences with INTBAU in Sweden (The Engleseberg Summer School) and Iberia (INTBAU Spain Summer School)
  • an opportunity to host FULBRIGHT scholars from abroad.

Graduates of the program work in city governments, development companies, architecture/urban design firms, and businesses in other areas

Courses are delivered through traditional campus-based, face-to-face lecture/seminar and studio classes. The one exception is a Summer Independent Field Study course that will be delivered online but held in a town or city of the students’ choosing outside of Charleston.
(Below is a theoretical design of King Street created by first year CPAD grad students Eliza Bower, Ken Marolda, and Julia Jones.)


Design Education

Students are introduced to practical design and communication skills in a variety of ways.

  • The CPAD program is a technological omnivore, teaching on-site hand-drawing in Charleston’s rich historic fabric and digital design in high-tech studios.
  • Students will be versed in theory, but they will also be grounded in the practical drafting, scaling, and rendering skills that make theory useful in the real world.
  • Successful interaction with government, clients, and the public is taught from the beginning, so that graduates are not caught unprepared when they leave the classroom.
  • Design faculty are professional practitioners who instruct students in their particular specialty. This approach provides students with a valuable, hands-on perspective that is useful in supplementing their academic training.
  • The CPAD program, the Riley Center for Livable Communities, the Art & Architectural History Department, and the Historic Preservation and Community Planning undergraduate program sponsor a variety of workshops and training sessions, and bring world-renowned speakers and designers to campus.

Contact Information

R. Grant Gilmore, III, Director