Program Is Much Needed In-State and Out; A Good Match for Faculty Expertise

The University of Vermont has launched a new doctoral program in Sustainable Development Policy, Economics and Governance. The new program will equip a rising generation of action-oriented researchers with the skills they’ll need to address sustainable development challenges in local, state, national and global communities. 

The program will enroll students beginning in the fall of 2020.

According to Cindy Forehand, dean of UVM’s Graduate College, the new program serves a need, fills an important niche and is a good match for UVM’s strengths. “The time is right for this targeted program, and UVM is the place to deliver it,” she said.

Sustainable development, defined as development that meets present-day needs without compromising those of future generations, is an area of growing interest.

“Nationally and internationally, it’s a big area, one of the most important issues in developing countries, community development, global health and environmental policy,” Forehand said.

UVM has many faculty who are active in this area of scholarship, and several have international reputations, Forehand said. Most have published extensively on sustainable development in their field’s scholarly journals and many have been actively involved in field work.    

The new doctoral program will be housed in the Department of Community Development and Applied Economics within UVM’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. The research and teaching core will also include three faculty from the College of Arts and Sciences.    

CDAE faculty include Daniel Baker, David Conner, Benjamin Dangl, Joshua Farley, Sarah Heiss, Christopher Koliba, Jane Kolodinsky, Travis Reynolds, Trisha Shrum, Daniel Tobin, Qinbing Wang, and Asim Zia. Arts and Sciences faculty include Robert Bartlett in Political Science, Pablo Bose in Geography and Stephanie Seguino in Economics.  

Important step toward R1 status

The Graduate College and UVM’s Office of the Vice President for Research were strongly supportive of the new Ph.D. program and encouraged its development, in part because it broadens UVM’s doctoral training beyond STEM and applied science disciplines, where most of its Ph.D. programs now reside.

“Widening the scope of our PhD. programs is a major step forward for a research university like UVM,” Forehand said. Other doctoral programs in the humanities and social sciences are also under discussion.

The new program is important in moving the university toward R1 status, the top category for research universities in the Carnegie Classification, a priority for UVM, said Kirk Dombrowski, vice president for research. UVM is currently an R2 institution.

“R1 universities offer doctoral programs and make research expenditures in a range of disciplines,” he said. “This new doctoral program is critical in helping us take this important next step.”  

The new program should be especially welcome in Vermont.

“Outside of education, we don't have a policy-oriented doctoral program in the state,” Forehand said. “In the past, people in state and local government and in communities who need policy studies have gone out of state to find people to learn from and collaborate with. Now there is a resource for them here.”

The new program spans the university. Not only are faculty from the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and College of Arts & Sciences involved, but students who want to specialize in an area within sustainable development can enroll in relevant certificate programs in most of UVM’s colleges and schools, ranging from Global and Environmental Public Health in the Larner College of Medicine to Sustainable Enterprise in the Grossman School of Business to Ecological Economics in the Rubenstein School of Environment and Natural Resources.

Another strength of the program is its ability to tackle sustainable development from three different angles. “You can take three different approaches: from an economics perspective, a policy perspective or from a governance perspective,” Forehand said. All three perspectives are necessary, she said, enabling the program to produce professionals who are equipped to meet all the unique challenges inherent in the field.

For more information, including how to apply, see the program’s website.


Jeffrey R. Wakefield

Sustainability is in our nature.

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