Master of Environmental Management (MEM)

The Master of Environmental Management degree prepares students for careers in environmental policy and analysis, green business, design and planning, conservation and stewardship, education, consulting, and journalism. The program requires coursework from the diverse perspectives of the natural and social sciences, with a focus on the complex relationships among science, management, and policy. The purpose of the program is to provide students with a scientific understanding of ecological and social systems that can be applied in a policy or management context. Students are also expected to hone their capacities as leaders and managers through summer internships, professional skills courses, and other opportunities.


Aldo Leopold, class of 1909

Learning to Think Like a Mountain

In his famous collection of essays, The Sand County Almanac, Aldo Leopold, the father of modern American conservation and a member of the class of 1909, recounts the story of the extermination of New Mexico's wolves – which in his younger years, he had himself participated in. In the decades that followed the slaughter, deer populations burgeoned without natural predators and devastated the vegetation of the mountain slopes.

Human managers had failed to consider the inter-dependencies of a complete ecological system in pursuit of control, profit, and safety. Time and time again, humans and natural systems have suffered from the unintended consequences of short-sighted actions. Leopold proposed that we instead "learn to think like a mountain." The mountain, he notes, lives in fear of its deer as much as the deer live in fear of the wolves. The mountain appreciates the interconnections of the environment and knows that bounty requires limits.

At F&ES, our students strive to learn to "think like a mountain," by studying the environment from diverse perspectives, considering complexity and balance, bounty and limits, and embracing the ethics of the land and the long-term. The environmental professionals of the future must be leaders across disciplines, committed to ecological and civilizational sustainability, grounded in a comprehensive knowledge of the natural and social sciences, and empowered through analytical techniques and management skills.

In teaching our professionals to “think like a mountain,” the MEM curriculum takes on the form of a mountain. The Foundations courses are the foothills: a common base of knowledge essential to all environmental professionals and the starting point for more advanced elective courses. MEM candidates also complete an Integrative Frameworks course, which is led by a team of faculty and teaches interdisciplinary ways to approach and analyze complex environmental problems.

Having cleared the foothills, a student now strikes out into a wide range of Electives, charting a path toward specialization through switchbacks across many systems and perspectives. At last, in their second year, students undertake a Capstone project or course where they apply their knowledge, skills, and perspective to a real-world project.

Throughout the curriculum students work toward both mastery of the fundamentals of environmental studies and expertise in a specialization through an individually crafted, rigorous course of study.

MEM Curriculum

The MEM curriculum is sufficiently flexible to allow students to tailor their course of study in a way that builds on their interests and experiences and that meets their specific career goals. MEM students can choose from more than one hundred courses offered by F&ES faculty and have access to a similarly large number of courses from other schools and programs at Yale. Many of the elective courses sponsored by F&ES comprise the framework of eight areas of specialization that represent strengths in teaching and emerging and enduring career fields within the environmental management arena. The School’s body of elective courses is supplemented by credit-earning Professional Skills Modules that are intended to build student expertise in management and leadership.

Curriculum Components

Students pursuing the MEM degree complete courses in four major areas: Foundations, Integrative Frameworks, Electives, and the Capstone, for a total of 48 credits over four semesters:

  1. Foundations courses (9-15 credits)
  2. Integrative Frameworks course (3 credits)
  3. Capstone course or project (3 credits)
  4. 9 to 11 Electives, including Professional Skills Modules (27-33 credits)


These courses provide a common foundation of concepts, principles, and tools that all MEM students must learn to excel as professional environmental managers. The Foundations courses also cover concepts and principles that are treated as assumed knowledge in many of the School’s elective offerings. Students should therefore ensure that they put in place quickly the foundational work needed for success in their future course of study. Offered in the fall, students should take on average three Foundations courses in their first year, leaving those two Foundations courses that are more peripheral to their focus to the second year. This year’s Foundations courses are

  1. Ecosystems and Landscapes
  2. Physical Science for Environmental Management
  3. Economics of the Environment
  4. Introduction to Statistics in the Environmental Sciences
  5. Society and Environment: Introduction to Theory and Method
    or The Politics and Practice of Environmental Resource Policy

Students may be proficient in the subject areas of one or more of the Foundations courses. This proficiency should be determined through discussion with the student’s academic advisor and through consultation with the School’s Foundations Advisory Committee (FAC). This faculty committee considers a student’s prior coursework in relationship to the content of a Foundations course (specified by the student) to determine proficiency and the appropriateness of proficiency-based exemption from that course. A student seeking FAC counsel on proficiency exemption should submit a completed Foundations Course Exemption form to the Registrar by 5 September 2012. Students are strongly encouraged, but not required, to follow the expert counsel of the FAC.

Integrative Frameworks

Integrative Framework courses explore the social, economic, political, and scientific interrelationships of some of today’s most pressing environmental issues. These team-taught courses build on the Foundations courses by illustrating how practices, methodologies, and perspectives from multiple disciplines must be integrated to provide holistic answers to the challenges posed by environmental problems. Participation in the Integrative Framework courses will help students refine their goals and interests and illuminate gaps in understanding, which, in turn, will inform their decisions on advanced coursework. Students are required to take one Integrative Frameworks course during either their first or second year. The Integrative Frameworks courses are

  1. Linkages of Sustainability
  2. Science to Solutions: How Should We Manage Water?


MEM students will take at least nine Elective courses in their two years at F&ES. Most of these offerings build on, and draw from, knowledge acquired in the Foundations courses. Electives can also be taken from schools or programs outside of F&ES, although non-F&ES courses should constitute no more than 24 credits in total. Students should consider choosing their Electives following consultation with their advisor, the Career Development Office, and other faculty and professional mentors.

Electives offered within F&ES are organized by subject of instruction, faculty instructor, and area of specialization. The nine areas of specialization are

  1. Business and the Environment
  2. Climate Science, Adaptation, and Mitigation
  3. Ecosystem Conservation and Management
  4. Energy and the Environment
  5. Environmental Policy Analysis
  6. Human Dimensions of Environmental Management
  7. Sustainable Land Management
  8. Sustainable Urban and Industrial Systems
  9. Water Resources Management

The specializations illuminate patterns in most, but not all, of the School’s large number of elective courses and identify relevant courses offered outside of F&ES. The specializations do not represent formally certified tracks. Nor do they restrict decisions on course selection as students may take courses from multiple specializations. The purpose of the specializations is to facilitate navigation through the School’s primary areas of instruction so that students can optimally align their coursework with their educational and professional objectives.


Each MEM student is required to participate in a Capstone course or project. The Capstone experience focuses on applied problem solving and relies on the application of knowledge, methodological approaches, and interpretive techniques gained from courses taken during the earlier stages of the MEM.

The following Capstone courses will be offered in 2012 – 2013:

  1. Environmental Protection Clinic
  2. Life Cycle Assessment Practicum
  3. Business and the Environment Consulting Clinic
  4. Management Plans for Protected Areas
  5. Seminar in Research Analysis, Writing, and Communication
  6. Advanced Readings: Social Science of Development and Conservation

As the Capstone relies on integration of a body of knowledge, most Capstone courses have prerequisites. Students may enroll in more than one Capstone course, but only a Capstone course taken in the second year of the program fulfills the Capstone requirement.

Students may work alone on a Capstone project. The Capstone project originates with the student, with input and advice from relevant faculty. Each Capstone project requires an official faculty advisor, who works closely with the student, but need not be the same as the student’s academic advisor. A Capstone project may involve providing a service to a client (e.g., a government agency, company, not-for-profit, or individual); applied, non-academic approaches to exploring environmental problems, such as film-making, journalism, or community-based projects; or a research project that culminates with a paper suitable for publication in a scientific or trade journal. In some cases, a Capstone project may involve group work with five or fewer F&ES students. Capstone projects, like Capstone courses, provide students with an opportunity to integrate academic study and research with real-world, hands-on problem solving.

F&ES course numbers for Capstone projects are listed by faculty supervisor and are published at here.

Professional Skills Curriculum

Environmental leaders require more than academic mastery to solve environmental problems; they must become superb managers and leaders of organizations. Recognizing this need, F&ES has developed a Professional Skills Curriculum to supplement the regular academic offerings. Professional Skills offerings in 2012-2013 consist of four, half-semester courses, each worth one credit. These courses are:

  1. Foundations of Environmental Leadership and Management
  2. Negotiation and Conflict Resolution Skills for Environmental Professionals
  3. Environmental Communication
  4. Financial Concepts for Environmental Management

Sample Course of Study


1st Semester

2nd Semester

3rd Semester

4th Semester


1. Foundations






2. Integrative Frameworks






3. Electives






4. Professional Skills Core






5. Capstone