MEM Specialization in Human Dimensions
of Environmental Management


This specialization developed out of research over the past half-century that demonstrated that the human dimensions–that is, the social, cultural, political, economic, behavioral, and historic aspects-of the environment are critical to wise stewardship and ultimately sustainability. Human actions underlie the majority of environmental changes, and current global environmental change will affect a majority of human populations.

The rise of disciplines in the last century separated the social and the bio-physical into two different academic realms, when in fact they are inseparably connected. Knowing the actual interconnections among them is essential to finding enduring solutions to environmental problems. “Management” requires a genuine interdisciplinary (an explicitly, systematic, self aware) approach to environmental problem solving. This specialization attends to the often neglected social context and its dynamics of our work. In the final analysis, this specialization is about integration via interdisciplinarity and application. It rests on a strong foundation of work by a great many social scientists, the experience of diverse practitioners and it offers invaluable theory and methods to address wide-ranging problems.

Research in this area spans a range of geographic and societal scales and interactions, from individuals and local communities and their use of regional resources to the ways that such local systems are entwined with extra-local, national, and global markets, politics, governance, institutions, and ideologies. This specialization is also distinguished by a critical approach to orthodox conservation and development models and bureaucratic management, which entails the study of policy institutions and structures of power, and the nature/culture divide. Many of the students in this specialization carry out grant-funded research and/or work during the summer after their first year, in many cases internationally, drawing on excellent on-campus financial sources for this. Thus, the first year is spent in part in preparing for this research, and the second year is spent analyzing and writing up field data, and examining its implications, ideally for publication. For other students, the summer after the first year is devoted to internships with domestic or international organizations.

This specialization prepares student for jobs in the public and private sectors as well as for further work in academia. Many of our students have gone on to doctoral programs in such fields as anthropology, geography, sociology, political science, and the policy sciences, as well as environmental studies, at major schools such as Cornell, Columbia, Stanford, U.C. Berkeley, Oxford, and Cambridge. Some of our graduates have been awarded prestigious post-graduate fellowships such as the Fox Fellowship and White House Management Fellowships. The majority of our students find jobs in prominent NGOs working on conservation and development issues requiring understanding of social dynamics and integrative solutions to problems. The NGOs that employee our MEM students range from small and local NGOs across the U.S. such as the Rocky Mountain Institute or the California Food and Justice Coalition, to large international ones such as CI, CIFOR, WWF, UNICEF, Forest Trends. And people work in the international NGOs in the DC headquarters as well as throughout the developing world.


Methods for Social Science Research

Societal and Climatic/Environmental Change

Political/Social Ecology

Social/Cultural Values

Social/Political Institutions and the Environment

Natural Resource Use/Management


The “tracks” outlined below represent illustrative foci that students with particular thematic interests might develop and follow in consultation with her/his advisor. The design of a thematic ‘track’, therefore, is intended to guide the student in selecting courses from the ‘topics’ presented in the foregoing section, while drawing student attention to other relevant F&ES specializations and curricula elsewhere at Yale.

  1. Societal Responses to Environmental Perturbation and Change
    • This Specialization: Societal and Climatic/Environmental Change
    • Other F&ES Specializations: Climate Science, Adaptation, and Mitigation
    • Elsewhere at Yale: Geology and Geophysics; Anthropology/Archaeology
  2. Environmental Justice/Movements/Institutions
    • This Specialization: Political/Social Ecology and/or Social/Cultural Values
    • Other F&ES Specializations: Sustainable Urban and Industrial Systems
    • Elsewhere at Yale: Sociology; Anthropology; Law
  3. Community-Based Natural Resource Values and Management
    • This Specialization: Political/Social Ecology and/or Social/Cultural Values
    • Other F&ES Specializations: Water Resources Management; Sustainable Land Management
    • Elsewhere at Yale: Anthropology
  4. Agriculture and Food Security
    • This Specialization: Political/Social Ecology and/or Natural Resource Use/Management
    • Other F&ES Specializations: Land Management and Planning
    • Elsewhere at Yale: Anthropology; Agrarian Studies
  5. Environmental Security, North-South Dynamics, Global Policies
    • This Specialization: Societal and Climatic/Environmental Change; Social/Political Institutions and the Environment
    • Other F&ES Specializations: Climate Science, Adaptation, and Mitigation; Environmental Policy Analysis
    • Elsewhere at Yale: Political Science; IR Program; Sociology; Anthropology; Law
  6. Regional focus
    • This Specialization: any topic(s).
    • Other F&ES Specializations: any topic(s).
    • Elsewhere at Yale: area studies courses from the Area Studies Councils in the MacMillan Center; Anthropology; History

Faculty Coordinator: Michael Dove

Specialization Faculty: Robert Bailis, Carol Carpenter, Ben Cashore, Susan Clark, Amity Doolittle, Paul Draghi, Gordon Geballe, John Grim, Karen Hébert, Karen Seto, Kalyanakrishnan ‘Shivi’ Sivaramakrishnan, Mary-Evelyn Tucker, and Harvey Weiss.

1 Course has prerequisites, an enrollment cap, or requires instructor permission prior to registering.
2 A capstone course.
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