Case Study Integration Initiative


Bridging silos. Linking knowledge and practice.

Everything is connected and everything is complicated. That is especially true when it comes to today’s major environmental issues. From a changing climate to watersheds to supply chains to urban ecosystems, it’s impossible to get a grasp on a system without knowing where the science is firm and where it’s nuanced. At the same time, we can only effectively define problems and make informed decisions if we can look at these questions holistically. That means combining hydrology with policy, sustainability pledges with remote sensing, and sociology with ecology.

And that’s something we do every day here at F&ES. The school offers students unique exposure to top experts across the environmental sciences while also preparing them to apply that knowledge to practice outside of academia. Through courseworkinternshipscapstones, independent research projects, field trips, and seminars, students and faculty regularly dive into these questions. Yet illustrating concepts with concrete examples and giving students the opportunity to think through how they would make decisions in the face of complexity and uncertainty is no easy feat.

In the spring of 2015, with the support of the Dean’s Office and Associate Dean of Professional Practice, Brad Gentry, F&ES launched its Case Study Integration Initiative to provide dynamic resources that help the F&ES community look at coupled human-natural resource management questions from a variety of lenses. 
“I think the case study approach that you are using – multiple courses all looking at an important case from different perspectives – is a great way to help students (and faculty) make connections among different courses and see the real-world applications of what they are learning.  It is a valuable addition to our curriculum.” – Shimon Anisfeld

Initiative Overview: Building a diverse case study library

F&ES Case studies

In-depth online interdisciplinary case studies form the bedrock of case study work at F&ES. These resources are built collaboratively with faculty, students, SIGS, and alumni and are designed to be used by many professors within their existing courses. Case studies are grounded in peer-reviewed literature, but also include a broad spectrum of interactive videos, images, and maps, as well as links to NGO reports and news stories. Subjects are selected with faculty and student interests in mind, and tackle forward-looking dilemmas without clear solutions. Guiding questions and assignments help to orient class sessions, though faculty members are encouraged to pick and choose content relevant to their courses. Workshops, webinars, team-taught class sessions, and panel discussions are a few of the forums we use to bring disciplinary perspectives together. These platforms also allow us to integrate new feedback and ideas into our case studies. Students and faculty are strongly encouraged to suggest case study topics of interest.
Current case study topics include:

  • Palm oil in Indonesia: Topics covered include the biodiversity, climate, and pollution impacts of Indonesian palm oil, as well as the cultural, economic, and political contexts within which palm oil expansion is happening.
    • For use in Tropical Forest Ecology, Corporate Environmental Management, Physical Sciences, Climate Change, Food Systems, International Development, and other courses
    • Read more about how the palm oil case has been used here.
  • Urban climate resilience: We explore the major physical and social climate vulnerabilities facing New Haven (temperature increases and flooding) and frameworks for determining what might make a city like ours more resilient in the face of a changing climate.
    • For use in climate change, urban ecology, water management, environmental health, and other courses
  • Western water rights in the Klamath River basin: This case looks at how tribes, farmers, utility companies, sportsmen, environmentalists, and others have converged and diverged as they try to assess and allocate scarce water resources in the Klamath River basin.
    • For use in hydrology, ecology, environmental justice, energy, and other courses
  • Pricing carbon at Yale: The Yale Carbon Charge Pilot
  • Drinking water: the case of Flint, Michigan

Student case studies

Through summer internships, clinical partnerships, and Masters’ projects, students at F&ES often get unprecedented views into complicated situations. Knowing that writing a case study can be as powerful as using one in a classroom, we work with students to process their experiences into case studies of their own by providing templates, workshops, and technical support. These reports can then be used by faculty, compiled for publication, or give students a head start on future projects.

Case study library

When YSE and student case studies are not available on a subject, we also curate a collection of case studies from across academia and partner organizations.
Some great resources include:
Interested in using a case study in your courses? Want to spearhead a case study? Looking for ways to bring more diverse perspectives and topics into your curriculum? Reach out to our team! We’re here to help.
Matthias Schildwachter
Director of Academic Affairs
Brad Gentry
Senior Associate Dean of Professional Practice