Graduate students in hard hats at a facility

In the M.S. concentration Environment, Society and Public Affairs, graduate students increase their understanding of and capacity to address social dilemmas we face in responding effectively to environmental and natural resource issues. Upon completion of their degree, graduates typically move into jobs with government or non-profit organizations or with consulting firms.

Graduates contribute to society's responses to environmental problems through their knowledge of human behavior, institutions, and decision-making. They may do work performing policy analyses; facilitating processes for citizen participation, environmental conflict resolution, and environmental planning; conducting analyses of economics and land use change; developing and implementing sustainable strategies for the conservation of resources; or identifying and taking account of human values associated with natural resources.

Concentration Overview

Graduate students in this concentration may focus on social dilemmas in contexts that include:

  •  environmental policy and planning in local, state, federal, and international arenas
  •  community studies, human behavior, and environmental sociology
  •  public participation, social justice, conflict resolution, and decision making
  •  land use planning and geospatial analysis
  •  ecological economics
  •  park and wilderness management.

Degree Requirements

Students take courses in social, integrative, and ecological dimensions of the environment. Students also work with their academic advisor and committee to design and complete a capstone experience of between 3 and 6 credits. This provides students with an opportunity to work in depth on a project relevant to a current environmental issue.

Course and Thesis or Project Credits

  • Envisioning a Sustainable Future (2 credits, currently NR 306)
  • Applied Ecology, Environment and Society (2 credits, currently NR 395)
  • Coursework in social dimensions of environment and natural resources in consultation with the student's advisor.
  • A course in methods/ tools, chosen in consultation and with approval from the student's advisor and studies committee. This includes statistics (e.g. STAT 201, STAT 211, STAT 221, CDAE 351, SOC 275), qualitative research methods (e.g. EDFS 347, 348), survey research methods (e.g. STAT 233, EDLP 200), Geographic Information Systems (NR 343), remote sensing (NR 346), or spatial analysis (e.g. NR 243, NR 245, GEOG 204). For those with no previous methods or tools courses it is recommended that two courses from this category are taken.
  • A course in natural or physical science relating to the student's program of study (may be waived for students who have a science-related undergraduate degree).
  • Masters Research Thesis (NR 391) or Masters Project (NR 392) credits - at least 6 credits for thesis; 3-6 credits for project.
  • Additional courses to meet 30 credits for degree.

Capstone Thesis or Project

Through a capstone thesis or project, students contribute to the understanding of or act in response to interactions between society and the environment. Students work with their advisors and committees to write a proposal by the end of the first year of studies. Upon approval of the proposal, students work on either a thesis in conjunction with their advisor's research activities or a project that is connected to the conservation mission or objectives of an organization.

A student's work might involve:

  • social survey techniques to determine values people attach to the environment
  • assessment of tourism and its implication for rural communities
  • analysis of public policy responses to specific environmental issues
  • GIS analyses and dynamic simulation modeling of land use patterns and development
  • multi-criteria assessment for environmental decisions
  • institutional assessments of strategies for land conservation such as community forestry and watershed planning
  • investigation and assessment of conflict resolution processes.

Admission Requirements

Admission requirements include:

  • undergraduate degree in a discipline related to the intended specific field of study
  • acceptability to a potential faculty advisor holding an appointment in the Rubenstein School and the UVM Graduate College.


Learn More - For more information about the Rubenstein School Master's Program, contact the RSENR Graduate Program coordinator at or the Rubenstein School main desk at 802-656-2911.