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Experiential Learning

The Boise State University Urban Studies degree includes several experiential learning opportunities that prepare graduates to take on real projects in their chosen professions. Through the Urban Field School, the Urban Studies Capstone, and various Vertically Integrated Projects (VIP), students are exposed to and learn varying types of analysis, including written, visual, and verbal.

Urban Field School

The Urban Field School was designed to provide students with opportunities to conduct hands-on research and analysis of urban sites in the city of Boise and beyond. The Field School deploys “reading in the round,” where students share a common set of readings weekly, and take turns presenting on individual, additional readings to the rest of the class to foster deeper understanding and gain presentation skills. This foundation gives them a framework of analysis for their original research, and they form a common understanding about the basic tenets and scholarly foundations related to the site-specific research they do throughout the semester. Students are broken into teams for the entire semester in order to facilitate teamwork, and together they choose individual Boise-based field sites to research. Students are taught how to create and adhere to project plans – including milestones and deadlines – to facilitate their projects. Toward the end of the semester, the teams are assigned a “companion site” to study in another city in order to make comparisons with their primary, Boise-based site. Students travel as a group to the companion city, and conduct local research related to their site, provide site tours of the sites to the rest of the class, and learn about basic urban living, such as public transportation, walkability, and sustainability. The teams end the semester by creating visually stimulating ESRI StoryMaps that provide information on their two sites, and presenting their StoryMaps publicly. As faculty rotate through teaching the Urban Field School, its subject-specific focus will change. However, the foundation of the course will remain the same, including original research, field work, and reporting.

2018 and 2019: The inaugural Urban Field School took place in 2018. Led by Dr. Jennifer Stevens, the focus was on deindustrialization in urban centers. For the Field Schools led by Dr. Stevens, that literature review has focused on urban resilience in the face of deindustrializing regions. Students learn to conduct a close site “reading,” plan and execute archival research, and analyze cities and sites spatially.

2019: Paving the Shoreline: A Detailed Story of the River Street Neighborhood Past to Present, By Doug Exton and Hanna Veal

The Morrison Knudsen Site in Boise, By Sean Cahill and Katie Wright

2018: Deindustrialization in Boise at JUMP, by Team In God We Rust (Savannah Willits, Peyton Blackwell, Ryan Hurlburt) (

Esther Simplot Park in Boise, by The Pink Slips (Michael Byrd, Adrienne Weatherly, Sierra Cowan)

8th Street Warehouse District, by Team Freak Alley Town (Seth Hayes-Fugal, Nina Schaeffer, Kaylee Oneida, Emma Channpraseut)


2019: State of Downtown Boise by Adrienne Weatherly, Savannah Willits, Andrew David, Saki Yamada, Jenna Shaw, and Nina Schaeffer: Faculty instructor Dr. Jillian Moroney.

The Urban Studies Capstone Project is designed for students to deploy the many pillars of their Urban Studies education through a semester-long, three-credit group research project. The Capstone Project meets the Finishing Foundation (FF) requirements for the Foundational Studies Program. External parties sponsor all capstone projects, which culminate with a poster presentation at the Undergraduate Research Conference at Boise State. Past Urban Studies Capstone Project sponsors have included the Downtown Boise Association and the City of Boise.

About the 2019 Capstone

Spring 2021 taught hybrid

Vertically Integrated Projects

The Treasure Valley is facing a housing crisis — this VIP aims to be part of the solution. Growth in the Treasure Valley has led to scarce housing opportunities and high housing costs for many households. We need you to help address this crisis.

About Housing Opportunities for All
Exploring environmental sustainability in the Treasure Valley

Investigate Boise

Recently, 25 students participated in an intensive, 1-week field course to explore the role of environmental sustainability in the Treasure Valley. Each day of the course, students learned about a different theme related to sustainability such as energy, urban agriculture, transportation, housing, green building, waste reduction, and open space preservation.  Students investigated these issues through a combination of course readings, dialogue with guest speakers, and field trips to sites around Boise and the Treasure Valley. Through these experiential activities, the students had the unique opportunity to see firsthand how sustainable features are implemented, as well as to dialogue about the successes and challenges that come with this process. Throughout the course, students took photos and kept a daily journal of their experiences. In small teams, students connected their personal reflection with more in-depth research to create comprehensive blogs on a specific theme related to sustainability. Sites were peer-reviewed and included a list of recommendations/proposed solutions for each topic.

Watch a video about a past year's experience