About the Program

Occidental's Urban and Environmental Policy (UEP) major is an interdisciplinary program for students who want to change the world.

The UEP major combines politics, planning, environmental policy, public health, urban studies, economics, sociology, community engaged research, and other disciplinary approaches. The major recognizes that "urban" and "environmental" are very much interconnected and that issues of economic and environmental justice are integrally linked to where and how we live, work, play, eat, and go to school. Topics covered in the program include housing and community development, public health, land use and transportation, environmental health, food and resource issues, education, environmental justice, immigration, climate change, air and water quality, water and energy supply, poverty and social welfare, criminal justice, race and gender and class relations, globalization, and other topics at the local, state, national and international levels. Students interested in the UEP major should have a strong commitment to public service and social justice and change, be interested in working on group projects with other students, and be interested in engaging in community activities and internships.

The UEP major is a unique combination of classroom learning and hands-on experience in the field of public affairs and civic engagement. Students learn interdisciplinary social science skills and public policy analysis with special emphasis on applying those skills in the real world challenges. It is an intensive major designed for students with a strong interest in public service careers such as government, law, human services, urban and/or environmental planning, public health, community organizing, social work, journalism and communications, socially responsible business, or academia.

The goal of Occidental's UEP program is not simply to produce policy experts, but to educate students to think and to act critically on issues at the intersection of urban and environmental policy.  . The major includes careful consideration of ethical issues that arise in the formulation and implementation of public policy. It trains the next generation of change agents and future leaders how to think critically and creatively and act effectively to solve problems and improve society.

The UEP major coursework includes a series of intensive seminars in the junior and senior years, with introductory courses in the frosh and sophomore years. The course of study includes developing skills in public policy analysis, internships, community participation, a research project with an applied policy focus, and leadership training. In addition to the prerequisites and the core seminars, students are encouraged to take electives in a variety of disciplines to sharpen their expertise in different policy areas and approaches.

We encourage our students to engage in off-campus learning. Some students may choose to spend a fall semester in the Campaign Semester program (offered in alternate Presidential and Congressional election years); summer research and/or internships in Los Angeles or abroad (e.g., through the China-Environment program, the Richter program, and the Undergraduate Summer Research Program), through the Occidental-at-the-United Nations program, or in one of the abroad programs sponsored or approved by the College.

During their senior year, students design and complete a policy-oriented comprehensive project that has an applied focus and includes original research. This project may take several forms. It can be a traditional research paper, a hands-on policy research report, a project in collaboration with other students, or a study conducted for a community-based "client" organization.

A significant dimension of UEP’s problem-solving and social change-related curriculum is its connection to the research, education, and community-based activities of the Urban & Environmental Policy Institute (UEPI). UEPI is the research and advocacy program arm of UEP and a key component of Occidental’s focus on community engagement. UEPI's mission is to connect ideas and action to create a more just and livable region, nation, and world.

Through UEP and UEPI, students experience a range of classroom-based and independent internships and engage with urban and environmental policy through government agencies, political campaigns, grassroots community and environmental justice organizations, public interest groups, social service agencies, labor unions, health organizations, food justice groups, as well as the government and private sector. Under the supervision of faculty as well as the UEPI program staff, students gain experience in practical applied research by working with and for community partners in the Los Angeles area and across the country and abroad Current programs address food justice, environmental and public health, the built environment and transportation, and global trade and freight transportation. We also facilitate College-wide initiatives such as our minor in Public Health and a China-Environment program that links students to universities and NGOs in Hong Kong, Nanjing, and other partners in China.