Graduate students interacting on beach

The concentration in Environmental Thought and Culture is an individually-designed Master's degree for motivated students who seek to pursue a broad and transdisciplinary curriculum of graduate work in environmental studies, with a strong foundation in the ethical and philosophical traditions that inform environmental theory and action. The concentration balances depth in the student's research area with breadth in the range of skills and approaches required for skillful engagement with environmental issues.

With its emphasis on transdisciplinary research (drawing on the humanities, social sciences, and natural sciences) and on critical thinking, integrative analysis, and strong written and oral communication skills, the concentration provides graduate students with a well-rounded understanding and capacity for addressing real-world environmental issues and problems.

Graduate faculty apply their work to education, critical analysis, policy, planning, organizational management and decision making, philosophy, and activism, related to such issues as sustainable community development, public lands and protected areas, tourism, forests, mining, indigenous issues, development of religious responses to environmental issues, and arts and media communication.

Areas of Study

Possible areas of study (based on current faculty research and teaching areas) include the following:

  • Environmental communication and cultural studies;
  • Environmental ethics and philosophy;
  • Environmental justice;
  • Ecological restoration ethics;
  • Ecofeminist theory and practice;
  • Environmental education and interpretation;
  • Environmental planning and international development;
  • Environmental conflict resolution;
  • Environmental politics and advocacy;
  • Indigenous peoples and the environment;
  • Human behavior and the environment;
  • Recreation and tourism studies;
  • Religion and ecology;
  • Science/technology studies and the environment; and
  • Sustainability/sustainable community development.

Students work closely with their advisors and members of their studies committee to develop a program of coursework (which may include internships) and a final project or research thesis that strengthens their understanding and professional competency in some aspect of environmental thought, study, and action. Students' programs of study are self-designed in close consultation with their advisors and studies committees. Final projects or research theses may be applied or theoretical and may involve such methodologies as social surveys, ethnography, action research in organizational settings, discourse and policy analysis, document research, multi-criteria assessment for environmental decisions, organizational strategy development, media or artistic communication techniques, and ethical or philosophical analysis.

Through their work in this concentration, graduates will be able to contribute to society's responses to environmental problems through their understanding of the relationship between human behavior, cultural values and world views, social institutions, and scientific knowledge. They will be well-positioned for work in public, private, or non-profit settings, facilitating processes of environmental conflict resolution, planning and decision-making, citizen activism, and sustainability initiatives.

Degree Requirements

Course and Thesis or Project Credits

  • Envisioning a Sustainable Future (2 credits, currently NR 306)
  • Applied Ecology, Environment and Society (2 credits, currently NR 385)
  • Concentration (at least 15 credits)

To be individually designed with approval of Graduate Studies Committee. Choice of courses should indicate a focus or specialization within environmental thought and culture (broadly defined), with a conceptually integrated curriculum of courses supporting the student's research project and drawn from the humanities, the social sciences, the natural and applied sciences, and/or other areas. Electives to be chosen from the following lists or other petitioned courses:

View course list.
Regularly offered ENVS/RSENR courses available for graduate credit include the following. (All are 3-credit courses except where noted.

  • NR 354 Seminar in Environmental Policy

  • NR 360 Environmental Sociology

  • NR 361 Politics of Landscape, Place, and Nature (2 credits)

  • NR 220 Landscape Ecology (2 credits)

  • NR 262 International Problems in Natural Resource Management

  • NR 275 Natural Resource Planning: Theory and Methods

  • NR 285 Human Behavior and Environmental Management

  • NR 385 Research Seminar

  • ENVS 294 Environmental Education

  • RM 235 Outdoor Recreational Planning

  • RM 240 Park and Wilderness Management

  • RM 255 Environmental Interpretation

View course list.
The following courses have all been offered in recent years as Special Topics (285, 295, 385) courses. It is expected that most of these will become regular offerings (with their own course numbers at the 200- or 300-level) as graduate demand for them increases.

  • NR 2xx Human Behavior and Environmental Management

  • NR 2xx Sustainable Tourism in the Northern Forest

  • ENVS 2xx Environmental Conflict Resolution

  • ENVS 2xx Environmental Peace Movements

  • ENVS 2xx Sustainability, Ecotourism, and Environmental Interpretation

  • ENVS 2xx Perspectives in Ecophilosophy

  • ENVS 2xx Feminist Ethics and the Environment

  • ENVS 2xx Buddhism and Ecology

  • ENVS 2xx Political Economy of the Environment

  • ENVS 2xx Environment, Communication, and Culture

  • ENVS2xx/HST201 History on the Land

  • ENVS2xx/ANTH295 Field Methods in Environmental Research

View course list.
Examples of appropriate courses available for graduate credit in other departments include the following.

  • ANTH 283 Colonialism

  • BOT295/NR385 Reading the Landscape

  • CDAE 205 Rural Communities in Modern Society

  • CDAE 208 Agricultural Policy and Ethics

  • CDAE 218 Community Organization and Development

  • CDAE 237 Economics of Sustainable Development

  • EDFS 347 Qualitative Research Methods

  • ENSC 222 Pollution Ecology

  • GEOG 278 Gender, Space and Environment

  • GEOL 295 Vermont Field Geology

  • HP 201 Architecture, Landscape and History

  • HST 295 Environmental History

  • SOC 213 Women in Development in Third World Countries


  • 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

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.