Master of Urban Planning Capstone

The capstone is a culminating project that provides MUP students with the opportunity to apply what they have learned through their Illinois courses and internship to a specific planning problem or issue, and therefore to demonstrate their professional competence to both the faculty and potential employers. Students work closely with their faculty Capstone Adviser in deciding on a capstone topic and approach. Take a look at recent MUP capstones..

Capstone Options

Students have three options for completing the capstone:

A Master's Project: A professional project or analysis focusing on a topic relevant to the student's selected concentration and career goals. The capstone deliverable may be a report, a plan or plans, drawings, models and/or other professional quality work appropriate to the project. In most cases, the project is conducted for an external client. In some cases, it may not be, depending on the topic and the student's professional interests. Students pursuing a Master's Project will sign up for UP 598 credit.

A pair or small group of students may pursue a Master's Project jointly. In such instances, the project must be of sufficient scope to warrant a team approach and the independent contribution of each student must be clear. A single faculty member will normally serve as the Capstone Adviser for the group and a capstone proposal may be submitted jointly.

A Master's Thesis: A scholarly applied or basic research conducted under the formal thesis guidelines of the Department and Graduate College. The thesis option is most appropriate for MUP students with strong interest in pursuing the PhD degree or a research-oriented career. Students completing a Master's Thesis will sign up for UP 599 credit. DURP MUP Thesis guidelines are here

A Capstone Workshop: Occasionally, a faculty member may offer special intensive Capstone Workshop that presents an opportunity for a small group of students to complete their capstones as part of a joint project for an external client. In such instances, the independent contribution of each student must be clear. The faculty member teaching the capstone workshop serves as the Capstone Adviser. Students pursuing this option will complete a UP 595 Workshop and UP598 credit.

Getting Started during the First Year

First year MUP students can prepare for the capstone by exploring possible projects in the following ways:

  • Look at previous MUP capstones;
  • Ask second year students about the capstone;
  • Meet with potential Capstone Advisers to discuss the possibilities;
  • Attend the Capstone Poster session in the spring semester of the first year;
  • Use the summer between the first and second MUP years to meet with potential clients;
  • Explore the possibility of expanding a summer internship project into a capstone.

The Department encourages first year students to select a Capstone Adviser and turn in a draft capstone proposal (or a concrete plan to develop a capstone project during the summer months) to that adviser, and subsequently the MUP Program Director, by the end of the first year.


To complete the capstone, students must:

  1. Identify a faculty Capstone Adviser. Frequently this will be the student's general faculty adviser. The Capstone Adviser must be a member of the DURP faculty and other academic staff.
  2. Complete a Capstone Proposal Form with the Capstone Adviser's signature indicating approval of the project, and submit to the MUP Program Director. The proposal includes a description of the project or thesis and discusses how the capstone relates to the student's area of professional interest. Students are strongly encouraged to begin working on the capstone during the summer between the first and second years in the program. Groups only need to submit one proposal.
  3. Complete two Capstone Seminars (UP 591), typically in the fall and spring semesters of the second MUP year. UP 591 is a credit/no-credit general capstone seminar offered by the MUP Program Director. UP 591 provides students with general advising regarding capstone requirements and an opportunity for peer discussion of work in progress. The seminar will meet on a monthly basis.
  4. In all three options (Project, Thesis, or Workshop), students register for 8 hours, typically earned over two semesters (for example, summer and fall or fall and spring).
    1. Students selecting the Project option complete UP 598 (Master's Project Credit) for 8 hours under the name of the Capstone Adviser.
    2. Students selecting the Thesis option complete UP 599 (Master's Thesis Credit) for 8 hours under the name of the Capstone Adviser.
    3. Students invited into the Workshop option complete UP595 (Advanced Planning Workshop Credit) for 8 hours.
  5. Participate in a Capstone Poster Session, held near the end of the spring semester. Note: Students completing their degree in December must submit a poster for the subsequent spring's poster session but they need not be physically present at the session if they have already graduated.
  6. Submit the capstone final products, hard copy of final product to Capstone Adviser and electronic copy (PDF) to the MUP Program Director.
  7. Submit a completed Capstone Exit Form (signed by the Capstone Adviser) to the MUP Program Director.


It is the responsibility of the student, under the guidance of his/her Capstone Adviser, to identify an appropriate topic and establish contact with an external client (the latter if appropriate). The Capstone Adviser is the principal source for substantive faculty guidance on the project itself. The MUP Program Director is responsible for ensuring that all students meet all requirements; collecting the Capstone Proposal and Capstone Exit forms, the capstone itself, and poster; offering the Capstone Seminar; and organizing the spring poster session.

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