AMHERST, Mass. - Graduate students interested in planning and the law may now earn advanced degrees in both fields through a new program established by the University of Massachusetts and Western New England College School of Law in Springfield.
Beginning next fall, students will have the opportunity to study for both a master''s degree in regional planning (MRP) and a Juris Doctor (JD) degree concurrently, and therefore earn both degrees in four years instead of the usual five. Students must be admitted by both the graduate program in regional planning at UMass and the law program at Western New England College before enrolling in the combined program.
"When there is a blending of curricular offerings from two strong academic programs such as these, there can only be positive results for both institutions," says Donald Dunn, interim dean of the Western New England College School of Law.
Individuals with combined expertise in planning and the law can typically be found in such professional positions as municipal attorneys, community development administrators, planning directors, consultant planners, public interest advocates, staff members of governmental agencies or legislative committees, or executive assistants to mayors, governors, and department heads.
There are currently approximately 13 other combined law/graduate planning programs in existence. Several of them are within institutions where the law school and the planning program are part of the same university and the rest are offered through partnerships between different institutions. Only two of the latter group, however, are between a state university and a law school at a private institution.
"Besides its benefits to students," says Meir Gross, head of the department of landscape architecture and regional planning at UMass, "the new program represents a unique collaboration between a public university and a private school of law. It also strengthens the University''s links with the Springfield-Holyoke-Chicopee area.
"Outreach," says Gross, "is a primary mission of the regional planning program, which has undertaken hundreds of planning studies around the Commonwealth concerned with economic development, human services, and the environment. The School of Law also provides five major clinical programs benefiting the region in such areas as discrimination, consumer protection, disability, criminal law, and legal services. Our partnership can only serve to enhance those outreach efforts."
"The two disciplines of law and regional planning complement one another extremely well," added Dunn. "We look forward to exploring the possibility of additional combined degree programs with the University of Massachusetts in the years ahead."
Gross also says the combined program will increase diversity in the regional planning program at UMass and follows the trend of combining planning with other degree programs at several top-ranked universities such as Harvard, and the universities of California at Berkeley, Pennsylvania, and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.