Global Metropolitan Studies

University of California, Berkeley

About the Program

Global Metropolitan Studies is a field of study that addresses major transformations in cities around the world, and seeks to change how we study cities. The urban challenges we confront–from climate change, to entrenched patterns of segregation, to new configurations of politics and social movements, to infrastructure design and resilience–warrant a fundamental rethinking of inherited disciplinary silos. As a community of scholars across disciplines, we investigate the challenges and politics of urbanization.  Our designated emphasis program prepares students to enter interdisciplinary collaborations, as well as to identify approaches from other disciplines that will enrich the study of the global-metropolitan from within their own discipline.

The objective of the designated emphasis (DE) is to encourage and support multidisciplinary doctoral-level education and research on global metropolitan issues. Multidisciplinary training will be provided through a wide range of course offerings as well as through participation in seminars and conferences organized by GMS.

The Designated Emphasis in Global Metropolitan Studies is for selected UC Berkeley PhD students with interest in metropolitan and regional issues. Students may come from any discipline across campus. The designated emphasis provides students with certification as well as with a context for the interdisciplinary exchange of ideas and development of research.

The list of core GMS faculty can be found here:
The list of affiliated GMS faculty can be found here:

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Applicants must already be enrolled or accepted into an existing PhD program at Berkeley (master’s students and students at other institutions are not eligible). Students should apply at least two semesters before the PhD qualifying examination.

Interested students must apply for the designated emphasis. They are selected on the basis of academic qualifications, appropriateness of their interests to the program's teaching resources, and the enrollment capacity of the required courses.

Admission to the GMS Designated Emphasis is determined by the GMS co-chairs. Applications are due one week prior to the last day of the fall and spring semester.

The GMS DE application, and list of additional required documents, can be found here.

Designated Emphasis Requirements


Students in the designated emphasis program must complete two core courses required for the designated emphasis.

In addition to the two core courses, students in the Designated Emphasis in Global Metropolitan Studies are required to take two additional courses for graduate credit on topics in metropolitan studies before the Oral Qualifying Exam. We accept a wide range of courses to fulfill the elective requirement, as long as they engage the urban and the global conceptually, empirically, and/or methodologically. Both elective courses must be taken outside of the student's home department. We are only able to accept doctoral-level courses taken for credit during doctoral study, and cannot accept masters-level coursework.  Students must complete an application to fulfill the DE elective requirement, which may be found on the program page.

Core Courses
GMS 200Global Metropolitan Studies: Introduction to Theories, Histories, and Methods 13
GMS 201Research Seminar in Comparative Urban Studies3
See program page for more information about electives: 2

This course is designed to examine metropolitan development through history and consider metropolitan issues from the varied perspectives of the social sciences and the professions. This course must be taken for a letter grade, and should be taken precandidacy.

Qualifying Exam

The student’s PhD qualifying exam committee must include at least one member of the Global Metropolitan Studies Graduate Group core or affiliate faculty, who will evaluate the student’s knowledge related to the designated emphasis.

Once the student has completed the Application for the Qualifying Exam and the GMS qualifying exam checklist (located in the student handbook), they should submit both forms to the GMS DE graduate office in the Social Science Matrix for the head graduate adviser’s signature.


The student’s dissertation topic also must be related to Global Metropolitan Studies and the dissertation committee must include at least one member of the GMS core or affiliate faculty who can evaluate the dissertation from that perspective. 

Contact Information

Designated Emphasis in Global Metropolitan Studies

226 Wurster Hall

Phone: 510-643-9440

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Co-director, Head Graduate Advisor

Joan Walker, PhD (Civil & Environmental Engineering)

Co-director, Head Graduate Advisor

G. Mathias Kondolf, PhD (Landscape Architecture & Environmental Planning)

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