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Urban Studies and Planning Senior Honors Thesis

To receive departmental honors, students are required to complete USP 190 Senior Honors Thesis. The one quarter seminar is designed for seniors who wish to undertake a research project under the supervision of a USP faculty member and satisfies one upper division elective requirement in both the Urban Studies & Planning and Real Estate & Development majors. Students who have special research interests and plan to pursue graduate school or work in research focused fields are strongly recommended to apply to the Honors Program. Applications for USP 190 are collected in the winter.

2023-2024 Senior Honors Thesis Application

If you are interested in completing the USP 190 Senior Honors Thesis in Spring 2024, please read all the criteria listed below and complete this application by Tuesday, February 20th at noon.

To be admitted to the seminar, a student must have:

  • Senior standing at the time of completing the application
  • Minimum GPA of 3.5 in major coursework
  • Minimum overall GPA of 3.0
  • Completed USP 185B or USP 187 by the start of Spring 2023
  • Have a faculty advisor confirmed from the list of faculty in the Department

Info Session Recording

Thesis Proposal

The application also requires students to write proposal that describes their prospective honors research project. The typed proposal should be no more than 1000 words (1-2 pages) and include the following criteria:
  • Title
  • Problem or Issue that your thesis is addressing
  • Potential methods and data sources for analysis
  • Potential applications for your findings

Your faculty advisor must review the proposal before signing the Faculty Student Support Agreement Form (see below).

Faculty Advisor

Each student completing the Seniors Honors Thesis is required to have a faculty advisor who is a member of the USP faculty. Prior to applying for admission to the Honors Program, students should contact the faculty member with whom they hope to work, and arrange a meeting to discuss their proposed project and review their thesis proposal. Ideally, the faculty member is someone with whom a student has had one or more classes and whose subject area and is a good fit in terms of the research or creative interests a student hopes to pursue in the program. Students may want to provide an unoficial copy of their transcript as well as a writing sample to the faculty member for review. The faculty member must complete the Faculty Student Support Agreement Form which the student will submit with their application.

Writing Sample

Applicants must attach an example of what they believe is their best written work (from a USP class preferred, but other papers will also be accepted). We are looking to see the quality of the applicant's writing, their ability to organize and clearly convey their thoughts, and their ability to make a coherent argument.
This can be in the form of an essay, memo, research paper, etc. The sample should be no more than 12 pages of material. The sample should be a single file, uploaded as a PDF or Word document.  

Past Senior Honors Theses Topics

Listed below are some topics that past USP majors have used for their senior honors theses.

Past Thesis Topics


  • Hu, Shunyi - Rethink Housing Affordability: Case Studies on Two Transit Oriented Affordable, 2021-2022
  • Rintoul, Michael - The Process of Decentralizing Land Use and Governance Systems: A Case Study of
    CityDAO, 2021-2022
  • Sethuraman, Anupama - Equity and Urban Tree Planting: A Comparative Case Study in the City of San Diego, 2021-2022
  • Yichen, Wang - Dimensions of Star Architecture’s Cultural, Economic, and Design Impacts: A Case Study of the Suzhou Museum, 2021-2022


  • Defining Success Within Housing First (An analysis of a program to address homelessness), 2020-2021
  • Municipal Facilitation of Shared Equity Homeownership in San Diego, Oakland, Berkeley, and Richmond: A Comparative Study of Policy, Administrative, and Financial Supports, 2020-2021
  • Using Transit to Increase Access to Universities Affected by Spatial Mismatch: A Case Study on the University of California San Diego, 2020-2021
  • Dual Densification: Developer Discretion and Housing in Kearny Mesa, 2020-2021
  • Gentefication and Urban Neighborhood Change in Barrio Logan, San Diego, 2020-2021


  • Beltran, Sable - Intersecting Land Use, Sociology, and Innovation in Housing Production in San Diego Cities, 2019-2020
  • Hocquet, Tessa - Certifying Innocation: Analyzing the Role of Environmental Policies at Universities, 2019-2020
  • Koh, Rhiannon - On Your Mind, A Thousand Eyes (a work of creative fiction), 2019-2020
  • Mumm, Erik - Rapid Scenario Analysis Software: A Path to More Efficient Rail Planning in California A Case Study of the use of Viriato in the Development of the Caltrain 2020 Business Plan, 2019-2020
  • Osborn, Allyson - Alleys in Action! 2.0: Activating an untapped resource of the public realm, 2019-2020
  • Reep, Alexandra - Hazardous Waste and Environtmental Justice in the Maquiladora Industry of Tijuana, 2019-2020
  • Sanchez Zelaya, Celia - Climate-Driven Displacement: Perceptions of the State and Federal Government vs. the Biloxi-Chitimacha-Choctaw Band on the Process of “Resettlement” for Isle de Jean Charles, Louisiana, 2019-2020
  • Shang, Haoyi - Commercializing History: a study of recent historic district development in Chengdu, China, 2019-2020
  • Vides, Cindy - Place Based Models as a Better Predictor of Life Expectancy: Forward Looking Perspective on Challenges and Constraints, 2019-2020

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