The COVID-19 pandemic, climate change, and political crises raise new challenges for communities across the world. To help meet these challenges, CDAE has just launched a PhD program in Sustainable Development Policy, Economics, and Governance (SDPEG). The timing could not be better.

“This program aims to educate professionals in transdisciplinary approaches to sustainable development policy by emphasizing research and outreach that align scientific findings with policy, economic and governance practices,” Julie Starr, CDAE Graduate Student Services Coordinator, said.

The program will empower students with a toolbox of knowledge to create sustainable ecological, social, and economic policies. The degree will equip students with skills for jobs in government, research, and the non-profit and private sector.

“Students will graduate with a transdisciplinary base of knowledge about policy, economics, and governance,” CDAE Chair Dr. Jane Kolodinsky, who co-directs the new PhD program with Professor Chris Koliba, explained. “Our focus is on graduating students with the knowledge and skill to help make the world a better place—for citizen resiliency, and economic and environmental sustainability.”

At the core of the program is a transdisciplinary collaboration between faculty, researchers, and students to guide the development of sustainable solutions to some of the world’s most pressing problems.

“We are filling a niche that fits with the transdisciplinary offerings in CDAE,” Kolodinsky explained. “CDAE is a transdisciplinary department—we have lawyers, economists, public policy experts, designers and artists, and sociologists. We really believe that these collaborations are important. And, faculty in CESS and CAS are participating as well.”

The SDPEG program uses the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals as a basis. The goals include ending poverty and climate change, providing clean water and sanitation, and creating peaceful, sustainable communities around the world. The program aims to empower students to create sustainable policies and solutions to address these global issues.

“Through rigorous analytical skills and systems analysis rooted in the social sciences,” Starr said, “this degree will provide students with the necessary tools to address sustainable development goals, while at the same time offering an alternative to mainstream approaches to policy, economics and governance.” This emphasis makes the program stand out from similar programs that focus primarily on the environmental science aspect of sustainable development.

The new doctoral program also provides opportunities for current CDAE students and alumni. Students with a CDAE education already have a powerful base of knowledge in these areas, and this program provides a place to deepen and continue their education in this growing field.

“For students and alumni who want to continue their CDAE education,” Starr explained, “this program offers a pathway to a career in government, higher education, public and private sector organizations, non-governmental organizations, and research institutes, providing students with the expertise and vision to inform local, state, national, and international sustainable development policy.”


Abigail Carroll, ‘23
The new PhD program uses the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals as a basis.
The new PhD program uses the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals as a basis.