Labs & Centers
Special Program for Urban and Regional Studies (SPURS)

The Special Program for Urban and Regional Studies (SPURS) program provides the opportunity for mid-career professionals who are or will be shaping policy in developing countries to further develop their planning and problem-solving capacities. Each academic year, 15 to 18 qualified individuals carry out a program of study and research focusing on the problems of urban and regional change within the broader context of development.

SPURS is an intentionally flexible program of study with few requirements. This flexibility allows Fellows to design a course of study that best suits their individual needs and interests, to work closely with the IDG faculty on independent research projects, and to interact with the entire DUSP community. Fellows contribute to the intellectual life of DUSP by sharing their professional experiences and research findings and sometimes serve as guest lecturers. 

SPURS Fellows come from an extraordinary range of backgrounds and experiences. Over the past 52 years, more than 739 Fellows have come from over 123 countries. They are drawn from such varied fields as architecture, sociology, economics, government, and business, or from any field in which there is a concern with problems of development. They are exposed to new theories and approaches from other Fellows, faculty, and other practitioners-ideas which they can later apply in their home countries. 


The Special Program for Urban and Regional Studies (SPURS) is a one-year, non-degree program designed for mid-career professionals from developing and newly industrializing countries. SPURS was founded in 1967 as part of MIT’s Department of Urban Studies and Planning (DUSP), which has a long-standing commitment to bringing outstanding individuals to MIT to reflect on their professional practice in the fields of planning and international development.

The program is designed to nurture individuals, often at a turning point in their professional careers, to retool and reflect on their policy-making and planning skills. Participating in SPURS allows Fellows to step back from their day-to-day struggles and provides them with a critical opportunity for reflection, learning, and renewal. Fellows return to their countries with a better understanding of the complex set of relationships between local, regional, and international issues. While at MIT, SPURS/Humphrey Fellows immerse themselves in a supportive academic environment where they can freely exchange ideas with colleagues who are expert in and sympathetic to issues facing developing and newly industrializing countries. They are exposed to new theories and approaches from other Fellows, faculty and other practitioners, which they can later apply at home. In addition, the experience helps them to develop strong, positive connections with American institutions. SPURS alumni hold senior-level positions in many different sectors in their countries. 

Program Goals

Professional Development

  • Reflect on professional practice
  • Enhance professional knowledge and skills
  • Broaden perspectives on development and planning issues
  • Develop leadership and policy-making capacities
  • Collaborate and network with practitioners and researchers

Academic Enhancement

  • Attend graduate level subjects (not for credit)
  • Participate in academic research and initiatives

Cultural Exchange

  • Cross-cultural discussions and dialogues
  • Understand USA through community service

Program Requirements

Fellows are required to attend the following program activities: weekly SPURS/Humphrey seminars, site visits to planning organizations, a professional visit to New York City, SPURS workshops, involvement in various professional and social activities at MIT

Academic Courses.

As a Fellow and a professional at MIT, you will be able to participate as a listener in classes available to the DUSP graduate students at MIT and Harvard. Some classes are restricted and may not be available to SPURS/Humphrey Fellows. We highly recommend that you take no more than 2 classes each semester in addition to weekly seminars required by the program. As a participant, you will not receive credits or grades for the classes you have attended. However, to gain most from the classes you attend; you should take part in the class discussions and do the assigned work.

SPURS Seminars

The American and International Development Seminar Series is the core component of the program. This weekly seminars bring to MIT distinguished scholars and practitioners to present and discuss recent ideas and projects in the areas of development. In addition, there is a multitude of seminars and presentations offered throughout MIT and Harvard.

Professional Affiliation

The Humphrey Program requires that all Humphrey Fellows conduct a professional affiliation at a U.S. institution (in a business, non-profit, or government sector) for a period of 30 working days. We encourage you to do your professional affiliation in Boston as this allows flexibility in managing your time. Fellows who would like to conduct their professional affiliation in a city other than Boston are advised to do this during MIT’s break in January or at the end of the spring term in May. Before you arrive, we suggest that you start thinking about the type of professional affiliation that you would like to engage in. It is your responsibility to find this affiliation and we suggest that you start planning early in the fall semester. SPURS Fellows are not required to conduct a professional affiliation, although it is a possibility that they may consider.

Professional Visits

Fellows are expected to participate in professional development activities that are relevant to their professional interests. These could include site visits to organizations, attendance at conferences and seminars and meetings with U.S. experts and professionals. In addition, SPURS will arrange several site visits to selected agencies and organizations in the Boston area during the course of the program.

Community Service

Fellows are encouraged to think about how to give back by doing some community service in the area. The MIT Public Service Center (PSC) offers a number of internships and volunteer opportunities for Fellows. PSC programs and events represent an evolving showcase of student initiatives and leadership, campus-community partnerships, and the power of volunteers to create productive change. Students lead all of these activities with the support and advice of MIT PSC staff.