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Global Environmental Politics | SIS

Global Environmental Politics Program

The Global Environmental Politics program focuses on the twin challenges of responding to environmental degradation and governing, managing and preserving natural resources. The program aims to understand the causes of environmental harm and the ways that humanity can build a more sustainable world. Housed within the School of International Service, the program studies the bio-physical dimensions of environmental issues as well as the socio-economic and global political processes that shape the relationship between human beings and the natural environment.

Faculty within the program have a wide array of research interests and routinely contribute to scholarly and policy debates through popular media essays, academic articles and full-length books. Some professors also edit environmental compendiums and special journal issues. They are regularly invited to speak and present their work routinely at regional, national and international conferences. In total, nearly 20 core, adjunct and associate faculty make the program one of the strongest of its kind anywhere in the world.

Faculty devote considerable attention to Master's students in the program; doors are rarely closed and professors often find ways to involve students in their work. Small class sizes mean students develop relationships with their professors that lead to both friendship and academic collaboration. Courses are taught most often as interactive seminars. The program strives to combine scholarly rigor with flexibility. Students pursue research projects individually or in teams based on their interests; internships in the U.S. and abroad also offer the chance for real-world experience.

The program offers two MA tracks, one in Global Environmental Policy (GEP) and the other a dual degree in Natural Resources and Sustainable Development (NRSD) offered in collaboration with the UN-mandated University for Peace in Costa Rica. 

  • The GEP MA places students in the heart of environmental politics and policy in Washington, D.C. Through core seminar courses, electives, internships, a substantial research project and a myriad of public events, students learn about and engage with the forces that shape global and international environmental behavior. At the heart of the degree is a tripartite course of study in which students focus on natural science, economics, and policy studies to build an integrated understanding of environmental politics and policy.
  • The NRSD MA provides students with core courses for a semester before sending them to the University for Peace (UPEACE) outside San Jose, Costa Rica, where they are immersed in sustainable development theory and practice for a year. They gain professional field experience during mandatory summer internships that often take them across Latin America and even to other continents. The core of the NRSD experience is the chance to engage in classroom both learning and hands-on development practice in a developing country that is arguably a model for sustainability; this is a decidedly different experience from what any U.S.-only program can offer.

Each year the program attracts a diverse group of students, some with several years of experience, others looking for a new professional path, still others early in their academic careers. Activists, journalists, government officials, returned Peace Corps volunteers, entrepreneurs and budding scholars all have found their homes in the program. The relatively small size of cohorts in each track enables students to work closely with faculty and fellow students, and allows them to tailor their studies to personal interests and career goals.

Not surprisingly then, students in our program have a strong placement record; our graduates work or have worked in almost every significant governmental agency in the U.S. as well as many environmental agencies abroad. Other alumni are making their careers in the major environmental NGOs in the U.S. and around the world, and in the environmentally focused private sector. The program is well-known for producing graduates who become leaders in their field.

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Conca and Jadhav pose together outside the School of International Service

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Professor Simon Nicholson speaking for Leland Fellows

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