Environmental Studies Ph.D.


Advancement to Candidacy

A three-person interdisciplinary guidance committee works to ensure that each student’s preparation is individually designed to meet particular needs and interests, to help ensure their success as scholars, and to help students fully engage interdisciplinary dimensions of their training and research. One committee member is the major professor and at least one member needs to be from a complementary meta-discipline from the student's general research area. For instance, a student whose interests are in conservation science may have two committee members who are ecologists and one who is a political scientist.

Course Requirements

All of the following courses:

ENVS 201AResearch Approaches in Environmental Studies


ENVS 201BEnvironmental Studies In Practice


Plus one of the following courses from natural sciences

ENVS 220Conservation Biology


ENVS 230Agroecology and Sustainable Agriculture


Plus one of the following courses from social sciences:

ENVS 210Political Ecological Thought and Environment


ENVS 240
/CSP 242
Public Policy and Conservation


Plus all of the following:

  • An approved graduate course in quantitative methods that provides a basis in research design and analysis;
  • An approved graduate course in qualitative methods that provides a basis in research design and analysis;
  • An approved graduate elective course that provides focused expertise.

These courses are designed to ensure that students acquire disciplinary depth in their chosen research fields; gain experience of their research communities; and refine the research skills necessary to perform successfully in their professional arena.

In addition, all students are required to participate in three quarters of:

ENVS 290LGraduate Research Seminar


Before advancement to candidacy:

Every quarter before advancement to candidacy, all students are required to participate in:

ENVS 290Interdisciplinary Research Seminar



ENVS 292Topics in Research in Environmental Studies


Graduate students are encouraged to participate in course ENVS 291, Advanced Readings in Environmental Studies, in areas of interest.

Foreign Language Requirements

If the venue of a student’s research is in a non-English-speaking country, certification of competence in the language of that country may be required before advancement to candidacy.

Teaching Requirements

Students are expected to serve as teaching assistants in undergraduate courses for two quarters.

Pre-Qualifying Requirements

The interdisciplinary guidance committee helps guide the student in preparation for pre-qualifying examinations in three general areas of scholarly interest, and depending on the student’s background, interests, and intentions, may require additional coursework, including courses from other departments. The pre-qualifying examination must be taken no later than winter quarter of the third year.

Qualifying Examination

The qualifying examination committee includes an additional member from outside the environmental studies department, and helps guide the student to define and plan their dissertation research. This committee is responsible for certifying that the student is qualified to advance to candidacy for the Ph.D. degree. The qualifying examination must be completed by the end of the third year.



A dissertation in environmental studies is expected to present an original contribution to the understanding of a significant environmental problem or issue. It should demonstrate a clear understanding of the relevant literature, careful and rigorous research design and data analysis, and effective communication of the results within the context of the student’s area of emphasis. The dissertation is guided by a committee that includes both natural and social scientists.

Academic Progress

The typical duration of the doctoral program is five to six years.