Environmental Science and Public Policy

The concentration in Environmental Science and Public Policy (ESPP) is designed to provide a multidisciplinary introduction to current challenges and issues of the environment. It is founded on the premise that the ability to form rational judgments concerning many of the complex challenges involving the environment that confront today’s society requires both an understanding of the underlying scientific and technical issues and an appreciation for the relevant economic, political, legal, historical, and ethical dimensions.  All students have to satisfy a core of requirements in the physical, biological, and social sciences and mathematics. In consultation with their concentration adviser, students also develop an individual plan of study for a series of advanced courses around a particular field of specialization.  Through their field of specialization, students develop expertise in a particular field of study relating to the environment.  Department Website

In the junior year, students take one or more seminars to complement their field of specialization.  The seminars are envisaged as a central integrating component of the concentration. The seminars cover a number of current environmental issues, comprehensively and in depth. They are taught by faculty from a number of departments in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences and from several of the professional schools, including the Kennedy School of Government, the School of Public Health, and the Graduate School of Design. Topics covered change from year to year, but have included policy issues relating to environmental health, ecology and land use, renewable energy, conservation and biodiversity, and environmental crises, climate change and population flight.

In the senior year, students undertake a capstone project in which they conduct an in-depth examination of a particular environmental issue consistent with their field of specialization, applying skills and knowledge gained in their courses and tutorial experiences.  For students wishing to be considered for honors, the capstone project consists of a two-half course senior thesis, while for non-honors students the typical requirement is a one-half course senior term-paper or equivalent.

Our concentrators appreciate the variety and flexibility of course requirements and their close interactions with faculty. Concentrators also enjoy being in the field, and we offer opportunities for concentrators to conduct work in the field in both course and group settings. We also support independent student research under faculty guidance. 

The concentration is overseen by a Committee on Degrees functioning as a Board of Tutors including representatives from several other FAS Departments and from other Schools as appropriate to ensure the requisite breadth of the program. The Faculty serve as concentration advisers and as thesis advisers, and are valuable resource for concentrators.