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Master’s Frequently Asked Questions


General questions about our Master’s 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 considered for available fellowships; no special application procedure is required. Most graduate teaching fellows (GTFs) in our program serve as teaching assistants for courses in Environmental Studies, although some assist with courses in other departments, advise undergraduate students, 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. Regular GTF appointments in the Environmental Studies Program are made annually whenever possible. The Program makes an effort to distribute GTF opportunities to as many students as possible but cannot guarantee that all students will receive fellowships. Generally speaking, GTFs are awarded to master’s students in their 1st and 2nd years. Continuing master’s students may receive funding if available.

All graduate teaching fellowships provide salary, 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 amount of salary 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 Program Coordinator, to find out the current stipend amounts.

Some GTF appointments are available through 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.

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 large 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: What kinds of jobs will I be prepared for with an Environmental Studies degree, and what are your alumni doing now?

To see what our recent alumni are doing now, visit our online alumni database.

Based on employment data that we have collected, our alumni are engaged in the following occupations:

34% — employed by federal, state, or local government agencies
23% — pursuing further academic training
14% — self-employed in environmental occupations
9% — employed for environmental work in private industry
9% — employed in environmentally unrelated occupations
8% — employed by nongovernmental organizations
3% — teaching in colleges and universities

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: 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. The average GPA of Master’s students admitted to the program is 3.5. 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: With the application online, do I need to have any hard copy materials sent to the Program?

A: Yes. You will upload your transcripts, and self-report your GRE scores in the online program application, along with input of information and uploading of your resume and statement of purpose.  You must, however, also have official transcripts and official GRE scores sent to us in hard copy. Transcripts and GRE score reports are the only hard copy items you should have sent to us.  It is your responsibility to ensure that your online application is complete by the deadline.  Use the online application monitoring feature to do so.

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 unless you are applying to our program AND the University of Oregon Law School at the same time. 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). Plan ahead when scheduling the exam so your official results will be received by the deadline. We strongly recommend you take the exam by December 1 if applying for our master’s 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 in the online application?

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.

You will, in the online application, provide names of three referees, their titles, institutions, and email addresses.  This will prompt the system to send an email to each referee which includes a password so they can enter the system to fill out the form and upload their letter.  They are not required to fill out the form, but we recommend they do so, as it gives us more information about your potential to succeed in our program.

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.

Q: What exactly is a concentration area for purposes of the Master’s program? What courses can I use for the concentration areas?

A: Each master’s student completes two concentration areas, with a minimum of 12 graduate credits in each area. Students tailor their concentration areas to meet their own interests, and courses may be drawn from any program or department at the university that offers graduate courses (500-600 level). Students may select concentration areas that fit a traditional discipline (e.g., biology, geography, etc.) or devote a concentration area to the acquisition of an important skill, such as Geographic Information Systems (GIS), statistics, or not-for-profit management.

Many students choose to organize one or both of their concentration areas around an interdisciplinary theme, bringing together courses from multiple disciplines to address a common area of interest. Concentration areas of past students have included such themes as environmental history, watershed ecology, women and sustainability, environmental law, landscape theory and planning, environmental economics, global issues in sustainability, perspectives on marine environments, political ecology, and Russian and East European studies.

The online application includes areas to construct a course plan that lists proposed courses and potential advisors for each concentration area. For potential advisors, applicants are encouraged to consult our lists of core and affiliated faculty. For more information about possible courses, consult the UO course catalog. (Remember that Environmental Studies graduate students may draw on graduate courses from across the different schools and departments in constructing course plans that meet their interests.) Concentration areas that you propose on the course plan should be representative of your overall academic goals and indicative of how you plan on advancing those goals during your course of study. However, the plan that you submit with your application is tentative; we anticipate that you will refine your proposed course plan and concentration areas in consultation with your advisor after admission to the program.

Q: How do I choose preliminary advisors for purposes of the Master’s application? Do I need to contact professors in advance?

A: The “Master’s applicant course plan” requires that you choose possible committee advisors. The best way to identify faculty members you would like to work with is to consult the list of faculty on our website (advisors may be either “core” or “affiliated” faculty). We suggest choosing someone whose interests seem parallel to your own. Keep in mind that choosing faculty members for the application is preliminary; this is not a permanent selection. There is no need at this stage to consult with faculty members or ask them to work with you. However, if you want to talk with some faculty members about their research or the program in general, contact them by e-mail (email addresses may be found through the website listed above).

Q: May I transfer from a Master’s program at another school to yours? If so, what is the application process?

A: The application process for our program is the same whether or not you are currently in a master’s program at a different school. You may be able to transfer in a maximum of 15 graduate-level credits if they fit into your degree plan, and if they are approved by your advisor, our program director, and the UO Graduate School. You cannot begin this process until you are admitted into our program.

Q: What are concurrent degree programs? Do I have to apply to both programs at the same time?

A: Environmental studies students may obtain concurrent degrees with majors in law; economics; business; planning, public policy and management; geography; biology or other disciplines. Students must apply separately and be accepted to the Environmental Studies Program as well as to the school, department, or program offering the major for the other degree. If you choose ENVS as your first degree, you are required to complete the full 57-credit program. The department you choose for your second degree may waive certain credits; check with that department for their policies and procedures. If you choose ENVS as your second degree, we will waive certain requirements, dropping the required credits to 45. You do not have to apply to both programs at the same time. In many cases, students complete one year of study in one degree before applying for admission to another degree program.

Q: How long does it take to finish the master’s degree?

A: Our M.S. and M.A. students generally complete their degrees in two years, although some take an extra one or two terms. Students completing concurrent master’s degrees may take three to four years to finish both degrees.

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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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