In 1983, under the directorship of the late John Baldwin, the first three students were admitted to the interdisciplinary master’s degree program in Environmental Studies. Since then, our program has graduated more than 175 students, who now hold leadership positions in local and national environmental organizations, all levels of government, small businesses and major corporations, and top colleges and universities. We train our students in critical and interdisciplinary thinking, creative problem solving, effective communication, and productive collaboration to meet the environmental challenges of the 21st century.
Several unique qualities set our program apart from other graduate programs in environmental studies and help us to attract stellar graduate students: our world-class resources, interdisciplinarity, individualized programs of study, sense of community, and location.
The University of Oregon is widely known as a leader in environmental teaching and scholarship that cuts across all of our schools and degree programs, including programs in green architecture and design, sustainable business, green chemistry, environmental law, environmental literature, and environmental sciences.
Through the Environmental Studies program, our students have the unique opportunity to draw upon all of the faculty, library, and research resources available across the campus. Our university also hosts some of the most prestigious visiting scholars and environmental conferences on a regular basis, such as the annual Public-Interest Environmental Law Conference and the Holistic Options for Planet Earth Sustainability Conference.
We are home to a number of research institutes and centers with an environmental focus, including the Center for Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, the Ecological Design Center, the Environmental and Natural Resources Law Program, the Institute for a Sustainable Environment, and the Oregon Institute of Marine Biology.
While disciplinary graduate programs may offer students the resources located within a single school or department, our program is unique in opening doors to the wide-ranging environmental resources found across the schools and programs on our campus.
While many graduate programs combine environmental science with policy studies or social sciences, our program is unique in its integration of disciplines whose contribution to environmental study is often underappreciated. In addition to a strong core of faculty in the sciences and policy fields, our program also includes contributions from researches in the arts and humanities (art, English, philosophy, history), architectural and landscape design, business, journalism, law, and theatre, among others. Faculty from any of these areas may serve as student mentors and direct theses or projects.
Since our students have the freedom to design concentration areas to meet their individual educational goals, these areas may pursue interdisciplinary study that cuts across traditional disciplinary divisions. We encourage innovative and interdisciplinary work that leads to first-rate scholarship and real-world results.
Individualized Programs of Study
Students in our program design two “concentration areas” that are tailored to meet their educational goals. These concentration areas may focus on the methods of a particular discipline or combine the perspectives of several disciplines around a core concept or theme. In planning their course of study, students have the opportunity to work with faculty mentors from any of the university’s schools or departments, including over 100 faculty who are officially affiliated with the Environmental Studies program. This individualized degree planning allows students the opportunity to integrate methods from a range of disciplines, to explore problem areas that cut across different disciplines, and to gain a unique combination of skills for the job market or further education.
Sense of Community
Thanks to our twenty-five year history and cross-campus collaborations, the Environmental Studies program enjoys a vibrant sense of community and shared purpose. The atmosphere of our graduate program is one of collaboration and mutual support, and the friendships formed among our students last long after they have gained their degrees. Our alumni form a network of regional and national contacts that provide current students with support and advice.
Nestled in the “Emerald City,” our program benefits from the progressive atmosphere and environmental sensitivity of the Eugene community, the cultural heritage of the larger Pacific Northwest, and the natural beauty of the rocky coastline, old-growth forests, and Cascade peaks of western Oregon.
Eugene is home to many environmental non-profits, a strong local and organic food movement, and excellent opportunities for outdoor recreation of every kind. The cost of living is one of the most reasonable in the Pacific Northwest.
The master’s degree program in Environmental Studies requires 57 graduate-level credits taken in five major components:
1. Core Sequence
All first-year students participate in an introductory core sequence throughout the first academic year, including a 4-credit class in fall, 2-credit class in winter, and a 3-credit class during spring term. This sequence is designed to introduce students to the diversity of environmental scholarship on campus, to take them through the initial stages of developing ideas for their thesis or terminal project, and to introduce them to some research methods.
2. Concentration-area course work
Concentration-area course work provides depth in 2 disciplines/subjects of the student’s choosing. Environmental Studies cannot be a concentration area. A minimum of 12 graduate credits are taken in each of the 2 areas. Prospective students must provide in their admission information an applicant course plan that includes 2 concentration areas and lists potential area advisors. Graduate courses are numbered 500-600.
Students take a minimum of 12 credits of electives. More may be taken, time permitting, but only 12 credits apply toward the degree. An Internship (ENVS 604) may be substituted for 4 of these credits.
4. Thesis or terminal project
Students may complete a formal master’s thesis following Graduate School guidelines for the presentation of results, or they may elect to complete a terminal project. The terminal project offers greater flexibility in format and presentation. A list of completed theses and projects is available in the Environmental Studies Program office or here. Both theses and terminal projects require enrollment for 12 appropriate graduate credits, a designated faculty advisor, and at least one additional faculty member who assists that advisor. Advisors and committee members must hold UO faculty rank of Assistant Professor or higher.
5. Oral Thesis/Project Defense
An oral defense of the thesis or project is required. All members of a student’s committee must be present at the oral defense, which is held during the student’s term of graduation.