New Focus, New Name for Land Use Program at UW-River Falls

Sept. 20, 2011 -- Effective this fall semester, the Land Use Planning program at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls has changed its name to Community Planning. The change comes as a result of a broadening of the program's curriculum over the last few years.

The program, which in the past focused primarily on land capability analysis, has increasingly expanded to incorporate the skills needed to plan entire communities. The intent of these changes has been to help better prepare students for a wider set of opportunities in the planning profession when they graduate. 

"The name change reflects the new breadth of the program and will improve program recognition among professional planners," according to Eric Sanden, a faculty member in the program.

"Land use is really an area of specialization in the planning profession," says Assistant Professor David Keuhl. "We wanted to emphasize that graduates of our program are concerned with all aspects of the design and functioning of communities including social and economic factors not just land use."

The program was broadened by the addition of four new courses within the major and the revision of an existing course. The four new courses include Community Decision-Making; Community Analysis; Planning for Sustainable Communities; and, Land Use and Sustainable Agricultural Law. The first two courses emphasize the increasing role planners have in helping citizens create a vision and develop a plan for the future of their community. The last two courses highlight sustainability planning, one of the strengths of the program at UW-River Falls. Sustainability is balancing protection of the environment with economic viability and social equity, and is a predictable concern to residents in areas experiencing significant growth and change.

"Given our location in the exurbs of the Minneapolis-St. Paul metropolitan area, we are able to help students understand firsthand the challenges faced at the rural-urban fringe of a growing metropolitan area," noted Keuhl.

Building upon that strength in sustainability, Sanden and Keuhl have also created a Master's Certificate Program in Sustainable Community Planning that will be launched in January 2012. The certificate program consists of a series of four courses. All courses will be offered on-line to address the time and place constraints of professional practicing planners, the target audience for the certificate program.

Sanden and Keuhl are excited about the direction the program is moving. The broad comprehensive undergraduate curriculum now better prepares students for employment in many areas of government, private consulting, nonprofit advocacy, natural resources management, and real estate development. The graduate level certificate program shares the expertise found on UWRF campus with a worldwide audience of planners.

For more information about the Community Planning major or the Master's Certificate in Sustainable Community Planning, contact Sanden at 715-425-3729 or

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