Designated Emphasis



The Designated Emphasis (DE) in Global Metropolitan Studies (GMS) is for UC Berkeley PhD students interested in urban and metropolitan and issues across the globe. The objective of the GMS Designated Emphasis is to support multidisciplinary doctoral-level education and research on global metropolitan issues, through a wide range of course offerings as well as through participation in seminars and conferences organized by GMS. The DE provides students with a context for the interdisciplinary exchange of ideas and development of research, opportunities for research funding, as well as a Designated Emphasis certification. Students applying to GMS may come from any discipline across campus.

A Designated Emphasis at UC Berkeley is an area of study constituting a new method of inquiry or an important field of application relevant to two or more existing doctoral degree programs. It is not a free-standing degree program, but must be added as an additional “major” along with an existing doctoral degree program. Students electing to add a Designated Emphasis are required to complete the academic work in the Designated Emphasis in addition to all the requirements of the doctoral program. There are no adjustments made to the normative time of the student’s program when a student undertakes a Designated Emphasis.


Admission to the Designated Emphasis

Students must be accepted to the Designated Emphasis before taking their Qualifying Examination. We recommend students apply at least two semesters before they plan to take their exams. The GMS Co-Directors admit students on the basis of academic qualifications, research interests, and the enrollment capacity of the required courses. Applicants must already be enrolled or accepted in an existing Ph.D. program at Berkeley (master’s students and students at other institutions are not eligible). To apply for admission, please complete the GMS - DE Application. For inquiries, email Please refer to Graduate Division Degrees Policies, section F2.1 for more information.


Requirements of the Designated Emphasis


GMS DE students must complete two core courses and two electives outside their home department. All electives and GMS 200 must be taken pre-candidacy, whereas GMS 201 should be taken post-candidacy. The student’s dissertation topic must also relate to metropolitan issues.

Core Courses

1. Global Metropolitan Studies 200: An Introduction to Theories, Histories, and Methods

This course provides an overview of different disciplinary approaches to understanding urban systems, drawing on scholarship from the social sciences, urban planning and landscape architecture, the natural sciences, and engineering. Course discussions should position students to identify approaches from other disciplines that could enrich the study of cities within their own field, as well as prepare students to enter interdisciplinary collaborations that address the complex challenges posed by urbanization.  The course is organized around four principal themes: 1) land markets and spatial inequality; 2) urban infrastructure and its social context; 3) cities in natural systems; 4) cities and technology. 

GMS 200 is also cross-listed as CIVENG 254G.

2. Global Metropolitan Studies 201: Writing Seminar

This writing seminar is designed for students who have completed their qualifying exams, and is designed for those working on urban-themed dissertation chapters or articles, or other substantive writing projects such as journal articles. Students engage with one another’s ongoing research projects and grapple with alternative approaches to the study of urban processes and problems. GMS 201 is not offered remotely or as a hybrid option; students planning periods of fieldwork or remote work should plan accordingly to complete this requirement of the designated emphasis. 

GMS 201 is also cross-listed as GEOG 206 and CYPLAN 280B.

Elective Courses

Students in the Designated Emphasis in Global Metropolitan Studies are required to take two elective courses on topics in metropolitan studies before the semester of 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 your home department We are only able to accept doctoral-level courses taken for credit during doctoral study, and cannot accept masters-level coursework.  

To formally complete your elective requirement for the DE, please complete this form. In addition to basic information about the course, you will need to prepare a short statement (1-2  sentences) explaining how the course relates to the concerns of Global Metropolitan Studies.

Do you have questions about the elective requirement? Please contact the GMS Co-Directors.

Application to fulfill DE elective requirement


Committee Requirements

To qualify for the Designated Emphasis, students must include a GMS Faculty Affiliate on their Ph.D. Qualifying Examination Committee and must be examined also in an area related to the Designated Emphasis. A GMS Faculty Affiliate must be also included in the student Ph.D. Dissertation Committee. 

Preceding Oral Qualifying Exam:

1) Complete the Application for the Qualifying Exam. This can be found in Cal Central – My Dashboard > Student Resources > Submit a Form > Higher Degree Committees Form. Once submitted, the form will be electronically routed to your home department as well as to the GMS DE for approval.

2) GMS – DE Oral Qualifying Exam Checklist (see DOCUMENTS at the right side of this page.) Please complete the checklist and submit to

Following the Oral Qualifying Exam:

Complete the Application for Candidacy. The form can be found in Cal Central – My Dashboard > Student Resources > Submit a Form > Higher Degree Committees Form. Once submitted, the form will be electronically routed to your home department as well as to the GMS DE for approval. GMS will evaluate the form to ensure that the dissertation committee has an appropriate representative of the DE in its membership and that the student was examined on the area of the Designated Emphasis.


Funding for GMS DE Students

The GMS program regularly funds graduate student research and conference travel grants.  Please consult the funding page for announcements and calls for proposals. 


Inquiries and Support

All information on this page is listed in the GMS - DE Program Statement (see DOCUMENTS at the right side of this page.)

See links to GMS - DE documents on the right side of this page under News and Events links.

For any inquiries on the administrative processes, please email For inquiries on DE admissions, elective course petitions, funding, and general questions on the program, please contact the Co-Directors.