Doctoral Frequently Asked Questions

General questions about our Doctoral Program

Q: What kind of financial aid is available?

A: The Environmental Studies Program does not administer financial aid, loans, grants, or scholarships. Students seeking these types of aid should inquire with the Office of Student Financial Aid and Scholarships.

Graduate teaching fellowships are available within the Environmental Studies Program. All of our admitted applicants are automatically considered for available fellowships; no special application procedure is required. All graduate teaching fellowships provide stipends, health insurance coverage, and a waiver of tuition; however, recipients must pay non-instructional fees set by the Oregon University System. For current fee amounts, see the Office of the Registrar’s Tuition and Fee Structure page.

The Environmental Studies Program works with focal departments to put together a package of support to offer individual doctoral students when they are accepted into the program. Since funding levels and commitments vary greatly from department to department, our offers of support are determined case-by-case. In general, we try to make our offers comparable to those made to students entering directly into Ph.D. programs in the focal departments. At a minimum, each student accepted into the ESSP doctoral program receives two years of graduate teaching fellow support. As described above, graduate teaching fellowships provide a stipend, tuition waiver, and health insurance.

The responsibilities of doctoral graduate teaching fellows (GTFs) are divided between the Environmental Studies Program and their focal department. For our program, GTFs serve as teaching assistants for courses in Environmental Studies, advise undergraduate students, work as administrative assistants in the Environmental Studies office, or provide assistance to the Environmental Leadership Program. Some of our graduate students also successfully apply for annual opportunities to design and teach their own courses for our undergraduate Environmental Studies majors. Doctoral GTF responsibilities in focal departments may vary, but generally involve serving as teaching or research assistants.

The amount of stipends depends on the type of appointment (the duties assigned and amount of time that students are expected to devote to these tasks) and on the student’s level of progress through our program. Contact Gayla WardWell, the Graduate Coordinator, to find out the current stipend amounts.

Students seeking additional funding beyond that provided through Environmental Studies may pursue opportunities in other departments, schools, and campus organizations; it is up to the student to research the availability of such positions and make application to the departments or organizations involved. Visit the GTF Employment Opportunities page at the Graduate School for a listing of current openings. Occasionally students in our programs are supported by individual grants to specific faculty members, but this is rare and very difficult to arrange until students are already involved in the program.

For general information about GTF employment at the University of Oregon, visit the GTF Procedures and Policies page at the Graduate School. For more information about GTF terms and benefits in Environmental Studies, please contact Graduate Program Coordinator Gayla WardWell (gaylaw@uoregon.edu).

Q: What types of funding are available for international students?

A: International students are also eligible for funding through graduate teaching fellowships. However, international students should consult with the Office of International Affairs for more information on admissions, orientation, visa issues, funding, and related matters.

Q: Do I need a science background or a specific degree to apply?

A: No. Because our program is interdisciplinary in nature, we admit students from a variety of backgrounds. We do look for continuity and focus, however. For example, if you want to pursue a scientific focus at the University of Oregon, we expect you to have taken undergraduate scientific course work to prepare yourself for graduate scientific study. In addition, we look favorably on environmental field experience. Most of our students have had some sort of environmental work or volunteer experience with groups such as Americorps, the Peace Corps, Greenpeace, Defenders of Wildlife, the Nature Conservancy, or the Sierra Club, for example.

Since doctoral students must be admitted into the relevant focal department as well as the Environmental Studies Program, it is important to consult with the Graduate Coordinator of the focal department about the background or degrees required to pursue doctoral work in that department. Some focal department require undergraduate or master’s degrees in the relevant discipline or specific course work in order to accept applicants into their programs.

Q: If I am accepted to the program, is it possible to defer my enrollment?

A: The Environmental Studies Program generally does not confer deferrals. However, we recognize that family emergencies and other unforeseen complications may arise. We are willing to review a written explanation of your situation if you feel you must postpone attending the graduate program, but there is no guarantee of a deferral. If we do not grant you a deferral and you still want to enroll in the Environmental Studies Program the following year, you must reapply. No special consideration is given to those who have previously applied and been admitted.

Q: Is your program or the University affiliated with any research facilities available to students?

A: The University of Oregon has a wide diversity of research centers and institutes. Research centers of particular interest to environmental studies students are listed on our General Resources page. Interested students may contact individual centers to learn about research opportunities.

Q: Where are Environmental Studies Program alumni now?

Graduates of our doctoral program hold research or tenure-track positions at Yale, Oberlin, Ursinus, Villanova, and University of Alaska. More details about their careers are available from  our alumni database.

Q: If I plan on visiting your program before I apply, is there someone that I should contact? With whom should I meet during my visit?

A: Prior to your visit, please contact our Graduate Program Coordinator, Gayla WardWell (gaylaw@uoregon.edu). Gayla will be happy to help you plan a productive visit and to meet with you to discuss the application process and degree structure.

You are also encouraged to contact current graduate students (master’s or Ph.D.) and faculty who are working in your areas of interest to schedule appointments with them directly. Our students are the heart of our program, and they are very willing to answer questions or to meet with prospective students.

Additional information about visiting our program and the Eugene area is available on our Visitor Information page.

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Questions about the application process

Q: What is a “focal department”? Do I need to contact a focal department before I apply to the Environmental Studies doctoral program?

A: Our ESSP doctoral program is different from many others in that it requires that you identify a “focal department.” This can be any Ph.D.-granting department on campus. Applicants should contact potential advisors in their planned focal department before submitting an application. Because students are admitted from a variety of disciplinary and interdisciplinary backgrounds, previous course and degree requirements vary according to the applicant’s chosen focal department. For example, some focal departments require that doctoral applicants have a master’s degree from an accredited institution; other focal departments do not require the master’s degree prior to admission for doctoral work. Focal departments may also have additional application requirements, such as GRE subject test scores or writing samples. Please contact the graduate director for the prospective focal department for more information concerning specific degree and application requirements.

Do not send any application materials to focal departments. The Environmental Studies Program will provide focal departments with copies of relevant application materials, including those materials required only by the focal department.

Admission to the Ph.D. program must be approved by both the Environmental Studies Program and the focal department. All applicants are reviewed independently by admissions committees in both academic units. Only candidates accepted by both committees are eligible for admission. Final admission decisions are made by the Environmental Studies Program director.

For more information, see our About Focal Departments page.

Q: Is there a preferred format for the statement of purpose? How important is the statement of purpose in the application?

A: Each piece of the application is weighted equally, so the statement of purpose is not per se weighted more than other elements of the application. However, most successful applicants have very high grades and GRE scores, so the statement of purpose becomes very important in discerning which applicants are best suited for the program.

The statement of purpose should be three to five double-spaced, typewritten pages that clearly express your reasons for applying to this program. The statement of purpose should support your applicant course plan, indicate how your past achievements make you a good candidate, and describe how your experience will complement your ambitions. This is your chance to make your case to the admissions committee. We suggest that you take your time to make the statement of purpose as effective as it can be.

Q: My undergraduate GPA does not meet the program’s stated minimum of 3.0; is there any way around this? Can I be accepted into the program even if I don’t meet the minimum GPA?

A: The undergraduate GPA minimum is flexible, although past course work is often a good indicator of ability to succeed in a rigorous academic environment. If your GPA is lower than the stated minimum, we suggest that you attempt to strengthen other parts of your application as much as possible to demonstrate that your potential for success in the program is higher than indicated by your GPA.

Q: In what order should I mail application materials? Is it best to send them all in together?

A: This is completely up to you. The only requirement is that ALL required application materials arrive before the deadline. In general, we try to notify students concerning any missing application materials prior to the deadline. However, it is your responsibility to insure that all materials — including letters of recommendation, official transcripts, and official GRE scores — have been received prior to the deadline.

To confirm receipt of your application materials, please contact Gayla WardWell (gaylaw@uoregon.edu), Graduate Program Coordinator, well before the application deadline.

Q: Is the GRE necessary? Is it possible to take the LSAT or another standardized test instead of the GRE? How are GRE scores weighted? Has the minimum score changed since the GRE format change?

A: The General Test GRE scores (verbal, quantitative, and analytical) are required with your application and must be no more than five years old. Subject tests are not required. We do not accept the LSAT or any other standardized test in place of the GRE. We do not currently require a minimum GRE score. Our current policy is to review every application that is complete by the deadline, regardless of GRE scores. However, our successful applicants generally average scores in the top 20th percentile of the test.

Instruct the Educational Testing Service to send an official copy of your GRE scores to the Environmental Studies Program (institution code: 4846, department code: 0502 — Environmental Science). If there is doubt whether your official scores will be received by the deadline, include a photocopy of your results with your application materials. Plan ahead when scheduling the exam so your official results will be received by the deadline. We strongly recommend you take the exam by mid-October if applying for our doctoral program. Your file will not be reviewed without the GRE scores.

Q: Do my letters of recommendation need to come from professors? Are my referees required to use the form that you provide? Should I send letters of recommendation along with my application, or do they need to come directly from the referee?

A: It is not required that all of your letters be provided by professors; in some cases, letters from employers, supervisors of internships or volunteer work, etc., may be appropriate to document your skills and preparation for graduate study. However, it is also important that your letters of recommendation document your academic excellence and outstanding potential for success in a rigorous interdisciplinary program.

While your referees are not required to use our form, we do recommend it. The form may be downloaded here.

You may request that referees send letters to us directly, or you may collect them to be mailed along with your other application materials. If you do collect the letters to send them yourself, please ask that your referees enclose recommendations in an envelope and sign across the seal to guarantee confidentiality.

Q: Is it a good idea to move to Eugene before I apply? Will that make any difference for acceptance or for my residency status?

A: Moving to Eugene will not make a difference in the way the committee views your application, as all applications are given equal consideration.

It generally takes one year of residency in the state prior to enrollment as a student to establish residency for tuition purposes. If you enroll as a non-resident, your status will not change during the time you are enrolled at UO. More information on residency is available through the Office of Admissions.

The University does have a unique program called the Resource Assistance for Rural Environments (RARE). RARE is full-time employment opportunity in rural Oregon communities. Upon completion of the program, students receive 9 graduate-level credits and they qualify for in-state tuition. Several of our graduate students have participated in RARE before, during, or after their studies.

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Other Questions

Q: Whom should I contact for answers to questions not addressed here?

A: Direct any additional questions to Gayla WardWell, the Graduate Program Coordinator for Environmental Studies. Gayla can be reached at (541) 346-5057 or by e-mail at gaylaw@uoregon.edu. Her hours are 8:30 AM – 4:30 PM (Pacific Time) Mondays through Thursdays. The ENVS office is closed every day from noon to 1 PM for lunch and on Fridays throughout the summer.

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