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History of the School of Urban Affairs and Public Policy

In the fall of 1997, the Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, Ralph Faudree, proposed the formation of an interdisciplinary "school" within the College of Arts and Sciences related to urban issues and policy. In 1998 the Dean appointed a committee to consider the benefits and drawbacks of developing this nontraditional unit that would include professional programs as well as programs with a strong urban application. The academic structures of several peer institutions were reviewed, but no University of Memphis peer had a unit that included all of the programs and disciplines under consideration.

In its report to then Dean Faudree, the committee reported many advantages to the formation of a new School:

  1. Increased quality and quantity of urban research and development, and to improve quality of teaching in these areas
  2. Increased interdisciplinary research, service and teaching between programs
  3. Increased autonomy, visibility, and understanding of professionally-based programs
  4. Support of the urban missions and goals of University of Memphis
  5. Coordinated urban outreach activities
  6. Enhanced application of service learning
  7. Provide a mechanism to maintain continuing education and training programs for professionally based disciplines
  8. Forum for interdisciplinary degrees and/or certificate programs
  9. Structure for development and implementation of interdisciplinary Ph.D. program in social sciences and/or urban policy
  10. Mechanism for administration of internships and externships

    Existing departments with long and successful histories in community outreach were targeted to be grouped into one entity with an urban orientation that blends teaching, research, service, and outreach while linking those activities to the uniqueness of the Mid-South. All programs must have common scholarship and service missions, and also require accreditation by external organizations.

    After consideration of the committee's findings and consultation with the Directors of all units under consideration, the Dean proposed the formation of the School of Urban Affairs and Public Policy to the Tennessee Board of Regents. As a combined unit, the new School would provide enhanced, broad-based, interdisciplinary programs with a greater regional impact, while at the same time, foster interdisciplinary scholarship for national and international audiences. The School of Urban Affairs and Public Policy (SUAPP) was approved by the Tennessee Board of Regents in June 1999.

    Administrative Structure

    The five academic units in the School of Urban Affairs and Public Policy continue to operate their current degree programs along with their respective research and outreach activities. Each unit maintains autonomy in managing curriculum, research, outreach, faculty, staff, and budgets. The authority of each unit's administrator will be consistent with the authority of the Chairs of other academic departments throughout the University for directing the efforts of their unit's faculty and staff.

    The administrator of the School (School Head) will serve as a catalyst in fostering interdisciplinary cooperation and action. The SUAPP Executive Committee, composed of each unit's administrator and the Director of CURE, will review school operations and advise the School Head.

    Relocation to McCord Hall

    In 1999 the five units comprising SUAPP were located in three different buildings on campus. Locating a facility for the new School was of primary importance. The new location must be large enough to house all five programs as well as their research centers, and accommodate plans for expansion. The only building available on campus that was large enough to accommodate the School's needs was McCord Hall. At the time Purchasing, Travel, and Auxiliary Services were located on the second floor, but the remainder of the building was used for storage of old dormitory furniture.

    The first three SUAPP occupants of McCord moved into offices on the second floor in June 2000. That summer the first floor was emptied, cleaned, and wired for its new occupants, the faculty and staff of three programs (Health Administration, Public and Nonprofit Administration, and Social Work) who moved from Clement Hall in August. Preparation of the third floor began in the summer of 2001, and Criminology and Criminal Justice began moving its research unit in that fall.  

    Plans for the Future

    While interdisciplinary focus is integral to the School's goals, it is equally important that the disciplinary units within the School maintain their identities. To insure this continuity, each of the participating units continue to offer the course work and the degree programs they have heretofore provided, concentrating specifically on developing students with critical thinking skills.  Faculty members are encouraged to pursue their disciplinary research projects, and to provide outreach in a manner that is consistent with University guidelines and expectations. The accredited units likewise maintain the discretionary authority they require for accreditation.

    The GIS Computer Mapping Laboratory currently located on the second floor of McCord Hall will be expanded to better accommodate the needs of the students, programs, and community. An application for TAF Funds has been submitted, and additional funding from external sources is being sought. When complete, the lab will serve to expand the research efforts of the faculty, as well as serve as a resource for community programs and agencies.

    Programs in progress or under consideration include:

    • A doctoral program in Urban Studies
    • Enlargement of the Mid-South Survey Program
    • Continued partnerships with
      • Methodist Hospital for the Maurice Elliott Leadership Institute
      • Memphis Housing Authority of the City of Memphis


School of Urban Affairs and Public Policy (SUAPP)


Criminal Justice Student Association

Housing and Community Development (HCD) Fellowship

Institute for Philanthropy and Nonprofit Leadership (IPNL)

Nonprofit Leaders Student Association

Div. of Public & Nonprofit Placement

Strengthening Communities Initiative

UDistrict Memphis (University District)

SUAPP Academic Units

Through engaged scholarship, place-based initiatives and research units, our faculty and students provide research, outreach and service activities to our local and regional community.

See our Faculty List Here

The School of Urban Affairs & Public Policy (SUAPP) offers a wide range of graduate and undergraduate degree programs for both full-time and part-time students.

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Last Updated: 1/23/12