First Year: Thematic Curriculum
Video: Matthew Guenther '10 on Thematic Curriculum
The Center’s innovative graduate programs are truly unique and interdisciplinary. Students come from various backgrounds to pursue a master of science degree in either environmental policy or climate science and policy. The emphasis on science-based policy enables students to progress from knowledge of the issues to the formulation of feasible, effective solutions. Distinctive features include a interdisciplinary approach to course work, small classes, one-on-one faculty advising, an extended professional internship, skills-based training, and research opportunities created to fit student interests. The master’s degree curriculum is shaped to reflect the fact that today’s students face an unprecedented leadership challenge, requiring from educators not only sound instruction in science, law, economics, and policy, but also the vision and courage to change the future.
Climate Science and Policy Curriculum
The graduate program leading to an MS in climate science and policy focuses on climate science, specializing in the interactions between climate change, ecosystems, and agriculture. Joint class sessions, field trips, guest lectures, and conferences expose students to the critical issues and practices of climate change science and policy. Policy experts and natural and social scientists have designed the curriculum for students to gain the sophisticated graduate level training in policy solutions demanded by employers today. Graduates gain training critical to businesses, nonprofit organizations, and governments as they face the challenges posed by climate change. This degree addresses the critical need for policy makers in the following areas:
- offset markets
- ecosystem services
- forest and soil sequestration
- agricultural and livestock life-cycle emissions
- ecosystem and agricultural adaptation
- disease preventionand management issues
The first-year curriculum covers climate science, agricultural practices, and ecosystem studies, linking these core systems to socioeconomic impacts, human infrastructure, and the political and legislative responses that address energy dependence and fossil fuel use. Key topics covered in the first year include: the Earth’s climate system and it’s natural and anthropogenic variability; the fundamental processes in ecosystems and agriculture, emphasizing the two-way relationship between climate and food, and fiber and fuel production; and the different technologies for climate solutions along with the policies to drive their adoption. Students are given an overview of basic concepts of environmental law, politics, and policy making, as well as a more detailed analysis of U.S. and international climate law and policy.
The program transitions to an applied focus in the second year, with a four- to six-month internship, thesis composition, and leadership training. Students specialize and explore career interests through a required internship, and by researching and writing a master’s thesis. Successful completion of Communication Strategies and the Capstone Seminar and a public presentation of the thesis are the final requirements of the degree.
Environmental Policy Curriculum
- air and atmosphere
- water and fisheries
- land, forest, and soil
- biological diversity
- urban systems
- industrial ecology
- risks to human health
Courses move progressively through several topics-all concurrently addressing the same environmental theme for roughly a three week period. The curriculum's organization provides the context for the courses and enables students to examine one particular environmental area at a time in an integrated, comprehensive, and realistic manner.
Faculty from each of the core disciplines meet regularly to collaborate and plan integrated approaches to these themes. Faculty also collaborate on evaluating students' understanding of the interrelated aspects of a particular theme or assignment, and students' research projects and class presentations may count for credit in more than one class. For example, students may be asked to select an issue of interest from a text and give a class presentation that incorporates the economic, scientific, and legal considerations that shape current policies related to that issue.