Skip to Content

About the Doctoral Program

Our doctoral program in Environmental Sciences, Studies, and Policy (ESSP) offers a unique opportunity to pursue interdisciplinary study of environmental issues while gaining a thorough grounding in the methods and knowledge-base of a traditional discipline. Students have the freedom to focus their study in any field that offers the PhD, and to supplement this “focal” area with concentrations drawn from any area of graduate study in the university. This flexibility allows our students to design an individualized curriculum responsive to their educational and career goals.

Our program prepares students for academic positions in their focal discipline or in interdisciplinary programs, for research occupations, and for leadership roles in creating and implementing environmental solutions in the private sector. Recent graduates of our program now hold academic positions at Oberlin, University of Alaska, Ursinus, Villanova, and Yale. A list of past dissertation titles and committees is available online.

ESSP Students gain a foundation in the methods of a particular discipline by selecting a “focal” department and completing all of the doctoral requirements of that department. Any Ph.D.-granting department at the University of Oregon (except for Environmental Studies) may serve as a focal department. Since our program requires close collaboration between Environmental Studies and the focal department, our applicants must be approved by both programs. For more information about the focal department structure of our program, visit About Focal Departments.

To gain interdisciplinary breadth, our students also complete two “concentration areas” outside of the focal department. The concentration areas provide an opportunity for our doctoral candidates to complement their focal-department research with perspectives from other disciplines, leading to a richer grasp of complex issues and the opportunity for interdisciplinary innovation. Any areas of graduate study that complement the student’s main research may be pursued as concentration areas.

In addition to the flexible and interdisciplinary nature of our curriculum, students are attracted to our doctoral program by the world-class environmental resources of our university, the strong sense of community among the Environmental Studies students, faculty, and staff, and the progressive atmosphere and natural beauty of the Pacific Northwest.

Degree Requirements

Ph.D. students must satisfy breadth and concentration requirements established by the Environmental Studies Program as well as the focal department (an existing academic unit that offers the Ph.D.). Working with a committee, each student customizes a plan of action for completion of the degree. There are four categories of requirements.

1. Focal Department Course Work

Completion of graduate course work as established by the focal department, which includes basic graduate-level proficiency in research methods appropriate to the designated focal discipline.

2. Environmental Studies Course Work

a. Completion of 16 credits in each of two areas of concentration outside the focal department and outside Environmental Studies.

b. First year students participate in two required classes: ENVS 631 Theory and Practice in fall (4 credits), offered every year, and ENVS 610 Approaches to Interdisciplinary Environmental Science (4 credits), offered every other year (so students may take it in their first or second year).

3. Assessments of Competence

Completion of assessments of competence encompassing the focal department and environmental studies. (The phrase “assessments of competence” is used in lieu of “comprehensive examination” in recognition of the different ways in which departments engage in such assessments.)

4. Doctoral Dissertation

a. Completion of 18 credits of ENVS 603 Dissertation, as required by the Graduate School.

b. Completion and defense of a written dissertation and approval of the dissertation by a committee chosen in accordance with Graduate School regulations. The committee must have at least five members. The chair and two additional members must be from the focal department. At least three members of the committee must be participants in the Environmental Studies Program.


Natural Science ESSP

For those interested in our doctoral degree with a natural science focal department, see ESSP requirements here.