Global cities seminar

Cities are a critical component of global economic, social, and environmental systems. As such, they form excellent cases for examining some of the most pressing contemporary global issues. However, it is important to first ask: what exactly constitutes a “city?” How do we define “city?” And does this definition change depending upon our global positioning or the issues at hand?

The Global Cities seminar introduces students to the basic skills and knowledge needed to comparatively examine cities from across the world. It also arms students with basic knowledge of city planning practices from diverse contexts and communities worldwide. The course is mainly based upon class discussions of readings and case studies. Students will debate the merits and shortcomings of a variety of existing perspectives and approaches to studying and improving cities around the world. As such, the learning goals for this course are to:

  1. Introduce students to some of the basic concepts needed to be conversant in city planning and international development;
  2. Promote critical thinking and problem-solving with regard to the diverse conditions found in cities across the world;
  3. Explore and test a variety of existing approaches to planning and development globally; and
  4. Create more aware global citizens, deepening students’ understandings of their roles in an increasingly global world.


As a seminar-based course, student assessment revolves heavily around completing readings and communicating thoughtful responses to the readings.

Term Paper: Comparative Case Report (40%)

  • Abstract and Outline: A one-page abstract of your personal interests in a topic covered during the course, and how it could form a comparative case report. The abstract should also be accompanied by a rough outline for the paper. (5%) 
  • First Draft: A first draft of your case report, this draft is intended solely for the purpose of receiving feedback from the instructor and the class. As such, it should be a complete report. (15%)
  • First Draft Presentation: A ten-minute presentation of your paper to the class. (10%)
  • Final Draft: Complete report free of grammatical and spelling errors with proper citation and formatting. (10%)

Reading Responses on D2L (30%, or 2% per response)

For 15 classes throughout the semester, complete the required readings and post a 200-word reaction on D2L (please see the “Guide to Reading Responses”). These should not be descriptive summaries, but critical analyses into the readings. Reading responses must be uploaded to D2L the day before the given class by 9pm.

Current News Items (15%, or 5% each)

For three classes, upload a current news article and a 500-word summary relating it to that class’s readings and topic. Summaries must be uploaded to D2L the day before the given class by 9pm. 

Participation in Class Discussions (15%)

A major component of seminars is class discussions. Thoughtful contributions to class discussions involve clear insights and responses to the arguments presented in readings, and any relations to other readings or contemporary events.


Required Textbook

There are no required textbooks for this course. All of the course’s readings will be posted as PDFs on Desire to Learn (D2L). However, students may consider purchasing these recommended texts if they find them useful:

  • Fainstein, Susan S., & James DeFilippis. (2016). Readings in Planning Theory, Fourth Edition. Malden, MA: Wiley.
  • Miraftab, Faranak, & Neema Kudva. (2015). Cities of the Global South Reader. New York, NY: Routledge.

In addition to the two books above, the following books will also be placed on reserve at the CU-Boulder library:

  • Yin, Robert K. (2014). Case study research: Design and methods, Fourth Edition. Los Angeles: Sage.
  • Brenner, Neil & Roger Keil. (2006). The Global Cities Reader. New York, NY: Routledge.


This course has no prerequisites, but it is assumed that all students are either upper-class undergraduate students (juniors and seniors) or graduate students, and course expectations will be set at this level. Lower-class undergraduates (freshmen and sophomores) are permitted with the instructor’s approval and an understanding that they must perform at an upper-class level.