New Environmental Management Program Promotes Depth, Breadth…and Flexibility


JThe Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies (F&ES) is launching a new curriculum for one of its core academic programs, the Master of Environmental Management (MEM) degree, which places greater emphasis on specialization of subjects while developing common foundational skills and offering flexibility.

Starting with the 2018-2019 academic year, MEM students will have to choose from one of eight academic specializations, all of which focus on solving the environmental challenges of the 21st century.

Although the format provides a clear roadmap to earning a degree in any of these fields, students can still devote more than half of their academic load to courses outside of their chosen specialization, maintaining the flexibility that has been a popular component of the MEM program.

This program will provide a new level of depth in the area students choose while offering the flexibility we are known for in our course scheduling.

— Julie Zimmerman, F&ES Professor and Senior Associate Dean of Academic Affairs
All new MEM students will also be required to complete a series of common courses that will provide a shared foundation of knowledge and interdisciplinary perspectives essential for any environmental professional.

“This program will provide a new level of depth in a student’s chosen field while providing the flexibility we are known for in our course scheduling,” said Julie ZimmermanProfessor of Green Engineering and Senior Associate Dean of Academic Affairs at F&ES.

The new program also introduces “learning communities” – including online portals that highlight people, organizations, career paths and other resources – associated with each specialization.

“I think that’s one of the most exciting things about the new program,” said F&ES Dean. Indy Burkewho made program evaluation a priority after joining in 2016. “These vibrant communities will create organization around specializations – including research, practice, events and workshops – in a way that extends the education and training beyond the classroom and illustrates potential career opportunities.”

The new areas of specialization are:

Students will also have the opportunity to create – in consultation with their Academic Advisor – their own “self-designed” specialization pathway, based on their professional interests. And other areas of specialization are likely to emerge in the years to come.

The School’s other degree programs — the Master of Forestry, Master of Environmental Science and Master of Forest Science — will remain unchanged.

Jhe revised curriculum represents a major step forward in what has been an ongoing conversation at the School about how best to prepare students for the world’s increasingly complex environmental challenges – and a rapidly changing job market.

The process – which was co-led by Zimmerman and Matthew Kotchenprofessor of economics and former/acting associate dean of academic affairs – incorporated feedback from faculty and students, alumni and potential employers.

Ultimately, Kotchen said, the new curriculum doesn’t change the school’s mission: to lead the world toward a sustainable future with cutting-edge research, teaching and public engagement on environmental challenges.

It just changes the way it’s done.

The field of environmental management has matured over the past two decades… so the mission of a school like F&ES must continue to evolve.

— Julie Zimmerman, F&ES Professor and Senior Associate Dean of Academic Affairs
“We actually offered the ability to choose a specialization for a few years, but in the future we’re going to do it in a more focused way,” he said. “These changes are partly a response to Indy Burke’s leadership, but also because the world demands it.”

“The field of environmental management has matured over the past two decades; it is no longer just a marginal problem, it is a mainstream problem. The mission of a school like F&ES must therefore continue to evolve in order to meet the resulting challenges.

Here’s how the new program will work:

All incoming MEM students, regardless of major, will take a common “perspectives” group course. This course will examine the challenges and opportunities of environmental management through the lens of multiple perspectives and disciplines represented by faculty and staff at the School.

Then, as a group, they will complete up to four half-semester courses that provide a common foundation of concepts, principles and tools required of all professional environmental managers – and necessary understanding for coursework. initials of MEM. (Requirements will be based on each student’s past experiences.)

These core courses (1.5 credits each) are:

  • Foundations of social sciences for environmental managers
  • Fundamentals of Physical Science for Environmental Managers
  • Ecological models and processes
  • Microeconomics for Environmental Management

At the end of their second semester, students will choose an area of ​​specialization, which will require the completion of two core courses and four electives. All students will also participate in a designated capstone course or independent project during the second year. Additionally, students will be able to improve their skills in basic professional skills – leadership and interpersonal skills; communications; project management and finance; technical skills; and work-life balance — in a series of short non-credit modules.

Together, these requirements will amount to less than half of a student’s required credit hours, leaving ample opportunity to explore different disciplines or areas of F&ES and Yale. Students can also choose to complete a second specialization.

“It’s very common for students to come in and not know what they want to do,” said James Saier, Clifton R. Musser Professor of Hydrology, who helped introduce the idea of ​​specializations while he was Associate Dean for University Affairs. “Or, just as often, they think they know what they want to do, but change course after being exposed to these classes or issues they didn’t even know about.”

In fact, the program has been designed to encourage interaction across disciplines and subjects, from core courses taught to all MEM students, to the opportunity for capstone experiences that allow students to work with people from other specializations.

“We really believe this program will better prepare our students for their future careers,” Zimmerman said. “It’s not necessarily driven simply by content or knowledge, because those things can change over time and you find that information online. Rather, the emphasis will be on helping students understand how to think, how to solve problems, how to innovate, how to work in teams.

“These are skills they will be able to take with them as much as the knowledge they acquire here.”


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