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SSCI-499: GeoDesign Practice: The European Experience

Summer 2015 in Amsterdam
Professor Darren Ruddell
Dates: June 1 - July 2, 2015 (June 13 - June 27 in Amsterdam).


This course will introduce students to the critical and spatial thinking skills of GeoDesign while engaged in both classroom and field settings in Los Angeles, California, and in the Netherlands, and to apply them in a capstone research paper that proposes GeoDesign strategies to address a societal challenge in Los Angeles County.

GeoDesign is a forward-thinking, interdisciplinary framework that pairs planning, design, and environmental systems with geospatial technologies to explore ways to build a better world.  As interest and demand for sustainable development gains traction nationally, internationally, and across the USC campus, the use of GeoDesign principles will be increasingly valuable to address global challenges that foster human and environmental well-being.  Europe is a region of the world that is particularly advanced in the integration of land management, transportation systems, ecological conservation, and high quality of life.  The practice of GeoDesign in the Netherlands is centuries old, and the Dutch, in particular, have long been leaders in designing land uses to maximum efficiency while minimizing adverse environmental impacts.  Alternative energy sources and advanced transportation systems are hallmarks of Dutch ingenuity.  Accordingly, Dutch leadership in sustainability and GeoDesign are worthy of student inquiry and investigation by means of an intensive field experience. 

The aim of this course is to facilitate student-centered learning on GeoDesign.  Although the challenges of population growth, increasing urbanization and globalization, resource and land management, the widening gap between rich and poor, and the likely impacts of climate change, are inherently variable and global, the nature of this exercise will be investigated across a variety of urban settings throughout the Netherlands.  The field component of this course will provide students with vital insight into local human and environmental challenges, the ways in which these challenges have been addressed, and the opportunity for students to compare successes and challenges across Los Angeles, CA and the Netherlands. 

Taken as a whole, this course provides a broad understanding (theoretical and practical) of the relationship between human and natural systems, investigates how and why people transform natural environments into residential, commercial, and/or industrial uses, and the impacts these decisions have on environmental vitality, economic sustainability, and human health and well-being.  


Program Costs:

Tuition: $6,408

Airfare: $1,500-1,900 (as of October, 2014)

Note: Students should wait to purchase airline tickets until instructed to do so, as courses may be canceled due to unforeseen circumstances.

Additional expenses: $1,200*

Total: $9,102-9,502

*Additional expenses include estimated costs for accommodations, other fees, and personal expenses.


This 4-unit credit course can be applied towards the GeoDesign major or the Spatial Studies minor.


GeoDesign majors and other students with at least one Dornsife major may apply for Dornsife Summer Undergraduate Research Fund (SURF) support to offset tuition for this PWP course. Additional funding is available through Continuing Student Scholarships.

For further information on this course, contact Dr. Darren Ruddell, Assistant Professor (Teaching) and Director of Undergraduate Studies at