“We’ve actually offered the opportunity to choose a specialization for a few years, but going forward we’re going to do it in a more focused way,” he said. “These changes are in part a response to Indy Burke’s leadership, but also because the world demands it.”
“The environmental management field has matured over the past couple of decades; it’s not just a fringe issue anymore, it’s a mainstream issue. So the mission of a School like F&ES has to continue to evolve to meet the challenges that come with that.”
Here’s how the new curriculum will work:
All incoming MEM students, regardless of their specialization, will take a common “perspectives” course as a group. This course will examine the challenges and opportunities of environmental management through the lenses of multiple perspectives and disciplines represented by the School’s faculty and staff.
Then, as a group, they will complete up to four half-semester courses that provide a common foundation of concepts, principles and tools required of all professional environmental managers — and an understanding necessary for initial MEM courses. (Requirements will be based on each student’s prior experiences.)
Those foundational courses (1.5 credits each) are:
Social Science Foundations for Environmental Managers
Physical Science Foundations for Environmental Managers
Ecological Patterns and Processes
Microeconomics for Environmental Management
By the end of their second semester, students will choose a specialization area, which will require completion of two core courses and four elective courses. All students will also participate in a designated capstone course or independent project in the second year. In addition, students will be able to improve their competency in core professional skills — leadership and interpersonal skills; communications; project management and finance; technical skills; and work-life balance — in a series of short, non-credit modules.
Added together, those requirements will account for less than half of a student’s required credit hours, leaving ample opportunity to explore different disciplines or subject areas from across F&ES and Yale. Students may also elect to complete a second specialization.
“It’s very common for students to come in and not know what they want to do,” said James Saiers
, Clifton R. Musser Professor of Hydrology, who helped introduce the idea of specializations while he was associate dean of academic affairs. “Or, just as frequently, they think they do know what they want to do but then change course after they’re exposed to these courses or issues that they didn’t even know about.”
In fact, the curriculum was designed to encourage interaction between disciplines and subject areas, from the foundational courses taught to all MEM students to the opportunity for capstone experiences that allow students to work with people from other specializations.
“We really believe this curriculum will better prepare our students for their future careers,” Zimmerman said. “It’s not necessarily driven simply by content or knowledge — because these things can change over time and you find that information online. Rather the emphasis will be on helping students understand how to think, how to solve problems, how to innovate, how to work in teams.”
“These are skills they will be able to take with them as much as the knowledge they get here.”