Urban Systems

Course Information

The Master of Engineering Leadership (MEL) in Urban Systems presents an innovative path in professional graduate education, blending engineering with urban systems management. This program, designed to propel your expertise and leadership in the field, comprises 60% technical courses delivered by the UBC Faculty of Applied Science. The remaining 40% focuses on business acumen, provided through UBC Sauder’s Robert H. Lee Graduate School.

Embracing a modern educational approach, many of our courses utilize a flipped classroom model. Prior to attending classes, you’ll engage with the material through independent study, including assigned readings and lecture videos. Classroom time is then dedicated to dynamic, interactive learning. Here, you’ll dive deep into discussions, apply your knowledge in case studies, participate in collaborative projects, and gain insights from guest lectures by industry leaders. This approach ensures that you’re not just learning but actively engaging and applying your new skills in real-world contexts.

Course Overview

UBC MEL in Urban Systems Courses

Part-Time Study Class Schedule

While there is some flexibility, if you’re completing the MEL in Urban Systems part time over 24 months, you will generally take your business leadership classes and two technical electives in the first 12-month period. In the second year of the program, you will typically complete your core technical classes. Over the two years of part-time study, you’ll attend classes alongside both full-time and part-time students, giving you enhanced opportunities to build your professional network.

Winter term: January to April

URSY 520: Urban Systems Analysis & Planning

This course aims to provide an understanding of the fundamentals of urban systems analysis and planning (including theory, methods and tools) and how they relate to urban systems engineering, design and management. Examples will be drawn from the international context including advanced and emerging economies. Course content includes demand and supply-side infrastructure planning, population and demand modelling, scenario analysis and long-term strategic planning, urban data, metrics and indicators, and integrated modelling and assessment.

By the end of this course, students will be able to:

  • Apply systems theory and quantitative methods including data driven scenario analysis to cities.
  • Understand the benefits and limitations of urban metrics, indicators and modelling techniques.
  • Understand and analyze macro level drivers and impacts on infrastructure demand.
  • Understand and analyze infrastructure performance from a systems perspective.
  • Implement team work, leadership and project management skills acquired from Sauder platform courses.
  • Provide effective, timely and constructive feedback on project milestones/deliverables to project teams.
  • Communicate results effectively to a stakeholder/public audience.

URSY 550: Infrastructure Asset Management

This course contributes to the infrastructure management focus area and covers the field of asset management for urban systems. It addresses topics and practices that relate to the operations phase of infrastructure systems, which are a significant component of the professional responsibilities associated with infrastructure, but are rarely addressed in undergraduate engineering programs. Topics include system-specific asset management (road conditions, pipe inspection), maintenance and renewal, data, metrics, indicators and assessment, data sources, performance indicators, assessment, assessing condition and sustainability, multi-objective and multi-criteria decision-making, performance prediction, life-cycle cost analysis (LCA) and sustainability.

By the end of this course, students will be able to:

  • Apply both qualitative and quantitative methods to analyse the current state of asset management for a local municipality.
  • Analyse the short comings of one municipality with respect to implementing an asset management plan.
  • Understand engineering techniques to calculate and represent the seven “whats” of infrastructure assert management (what do you own, what is it worth, what is the condition, what is the remaining service life, what is the risk, what is the level of service and what do you fix first).
  • Work as a team of professional: coordinating activities on a complex project, communication internally to the team and externally to clients, and present results in clear understandable language.
  • Provide effective, timely and constructive feedback on project milestones/deliverables to project teams.
  • Communicate results effectively to a stakeholder/public audience.

APPP 503: Organizational Leadership

Understand the behaviour of people and groups and how this applies to management and leadership within professional organizations. This course explores motivation, group dynamics, organizational structure, leadership styles and tools for assessing organizational effectiveness. The course is collaboratively delivered with the Faculty of Commerce and Business Administration.

By the end of this course, students will be able to:

  • Apply theoretical principles of leadership and organization behaviour in a variety of organizational contexts and industries.
  • Diagnose organizational behaviour and people management challenges and find solutions that deliver business results and ensure employee engagement.
  • Understand what it takes to build effective manager-employee relationships, given the realities of power, motivation and commitment in an organizational setting.
  • Develop and present recommendations for organizational leadership challenges using the case study analysis approach.

BAEN 540: Strategy & Innovation

This course provides an introduction to the principles and frameworks of strategic management, as well as concepts surrounding the creation or expansion of innovation capabilities, within organizations. Strategic management involves analysis, planning and execution of initiatives that achieve objectives in support of organizational goals. Innovation generally involves the development of revolutionary new or evolutionary improvements to existing ideas, methods, products, services, or combinations thereof that are adopted. The course will also consider the changing nature of organizational strategy and innovation in an environment of increasing globalization, digitization and automation. Entrepreneurship and intrapreneurship will be recurring themes throughout the course. The course will emphasize actionable lessons and models that students, regardless of their professional or academic backgrounds, can apply in practice to create tangible and valuable outcomes across organizational types, growth stages, and industries.

By the end of this course, students will be able to:

  • Understand strategic decision making and organization innovation processes.
  • Analyze business situations using relevant concepts and tools.
  • Understand business approaches for managing strategy and innovation programs and projects.
  • Create and present plans for solutions to organizationally important challenges.
  • Communicate effectively about planning and delivering on strategy and innovation.

Summer term: May to August

URSY 530: Urban Systems Engineering

This course ensures familiarity with the full range of technical infrastructure systems that make up urban environments, and helps students understand the interdependencies involved in their design and management. It will provide a survey of systems including water distribution, wastewater and stormwater, solid waste, transportation, energy and data. The course will consider systems’ services and demands, technical alternatives, distribution systems as well as modelling, design, construction, operations and maintenance issues.

By the end of this course, students will be able to:

  • Demonstrate general familiarity with the key major municipal infrastructure systems, the different phases of infrastructure and project delivery in an urban environment.
  • Identify the major technical infrastructure systems that support social and economic activities in a community.
  • For each major infrastructure system, characterize and describe key components of this system, technology alternatives, delivery approaches and operation and maintenance issues.
  • Link the different phases of urban systems from strategy to concept, design, construction, operation, maintenance and renewal.
  • Illustrate the political, social, economic and environmental implications of systems and inter-dependencies of service delivery requirements of urban systems.
  • Understand how decisions are made in a municipal government, including financing of urban systems.
  • Apply leadership principles in the management of urban systems.

APPP 504: Business Acumen for Technical Leaders

An asset to the aspiring technical leader, business acumen is knowing how business works and applying that knowledge with the goal of business improvement. This course offers an elevated perspective of how technical skills contribute to building value in a business. The course immerses aspiring technical leaders in the practical application of core business skills and the development of six core business competencies, which are presented as modules: Managerial Accounting, Strategy and Performance, Market Evaluation, Operations Management, Negotiations and Contract Management and Business-Case Building and Valuation. This course is collaboratively delivered with the Faculty of Commerce and Business Administration.

By the end of this course, students will be able to:

  • Apply theoretical principles of business in a variety of contexts.
  • Analyze and discuss common business situations encountered by managers from multiple angles using the case study analysis approach.
  • Appreciate the importance of each of the functional areas, as well as the inter-connectedness of business decision-making.
  • Appreciate the importance of excellent written and oral communication skills.
  • Understand the importance of effective team work and strong ethical standards in management.
  • Plan and present effective and meaningful presentations.

Fall term: September to December

URSY 510: Urban Systems & Society

The course will cover a wide range of issues that provide the societal context for the design and management of urban systems, including urban systems in society and economy, spatial issues, equity and social justice, governance, policy and regulation, globalization and international development, implications for urban systems, urban and regional economics, infrastructure financing, urban systems and technology, trade-offs, socio-economic-technical systems as well as emerging and green technologies.

By the end of this course, students will be able to:

  • Describe the role of urban infrastructure systems in the development of cities.
  • Identify major ways in which urban systems provision and performance affect society, including linkages to environment, health, quality of life, equity, and economy.
  • Identify ways in which regulation, planning, and public policy affect urban systems.
  • Compare public, private, and other modes of provision of urban systems services.
  • Describe emerging trends and technologies in urban systems.
  • Develop and justify hypotheses about future changes in urban systems and related societal changes.

URSY 540: Urban Systems Project Delivery & Economics*

This course contributes to the infrastructure management focus area and covers advanced economic and risk modelling and provides a detailed understanding of project delivery alternatives. It includes topics in stakeholder practices, including stakeholder engagement, public consultation, partnerships, stakeholder management and buy-in. It also covers project delivery (project delivery options, public-private partnerships (P3), integrated project delivery (IPD) and partnering), as well as modelling, analytical methods and decision support such as economic and risk modelling.

By the end of this course, students will be able to:

  • Model and analyze the life cycle of medium to large scale infrastructure projects from multiple perspectives to support strategic-level decision-making.
  • Identify project stakeholders, their interests and value systems.
  • Select and tailor project delivery modes and financing options to achieve value and other project objectives.
  • Apply principles of engineering economics and finance to the modeling, valuation, and analysis of infrastructure projects and assess the sensitivity of economic performance to changes in market/technical/policy parameters and variables.

APPP 502: Sustainability & Leadership

This course helps students build skills to lead change that influences the triple bottom line and explores concepts related to sustainability, change agency systems thinking, awareness and perspective for engagement and communication, adaptive leadership, and change dynamics. It also incorporates case studies in organizational and social change. This course is collaboratively delivered with the Faculty of Commerce and Business Administration.

By the end of this course, students will be able to:

  • Recognize tools, concepts, standards and frameworks used in sustainable business.
  • Analyze current realities, market opportunities and issues related to sustainability across a range of industries.
  • Integrate sustainability-related concepts into their own industry and/or personal experiences.
  • Synthesize, apply and communicate sustainability knowledge to one’s peers.
  • Apply various leadership concepts and tools into their professional practice, and in particular to sustainability-related initiatives.

URSY Technical Elective

All 500-level CIVL and PLAN courses have been pre-approved as technical electives for URSY and students will be able to work with the Program Director and Program Coordinator to find courses that best suit their interests.

UBC Sauder School of Business Courses

Students can choose a UBC Sauder Business Course to gain greater exposure to a particular area of interest. Options include (subject to change):

BASC 550: Operations and Logistics

This course will introduce students to the key concepts and tools needed to understand and effectively manage supply chains and business operations in general. A key concept in this course is the “business process”, and managing and improving such processes.

BAMA 519: Building Brand with Purpose

This course explores the core principles of branding within the context of social and environmental responsibility including healthcare, sustainability and human rights. Fundamental marketing strategies are reinforced as they relate specifically to: 1) non-profits, 2) social marketing designed to change society’s behaviour and 3) cause-related-marketing within thecorporate sector.

BA 563: Decision Making for Managers

This course is designed to make you a better decision maker by helping you understand your weaknesses and build on your strengths in decision-making. This is an integrative course that links material from Economics, Operations, Statistics, Marketing, Psychology, Finance, and Strategy.

*Course offering subject to change.

BAEN 580B: Special Topics in Business: Creative Destruction Lab

The Creative Destruction Lab Venture Program is a 3-credit course in entrepreneurship in which students will work with the Creative Destruction Lab West (CDL-West) team to help emerging technology and science focused start-ups. Students will become familiar with the CDL-West companies and will have the opportunity to support with market analysis, customer development, financial analysis, and other core activities related to building early stage start-ups. Students will be provided with visibility into how venture capitalists and angel investors make investment decisions.