Foundational Knowledge

In order to excel in one’s program of study at YSE as well as a career in environmental management, all MEM students are expected to be conversant in four Foundational Knowledge areas. These areas are:
  • Physical Science
  • Social Science
  • Ecology
  • Microeconomics
Each fall semester, four thoughtfully designed courses – tailored specifically for incoming MEM students – are offered for students to learn, refresh, and deepen their understanding in each of these knowledge areas. In the process, students lay a strong foundation to engage with the rigorous MEM curriculum and approach complex problems through an interdisciplinary lens.

For incoming students with substantial academic or professional experience in any of the four areas, waiver exams will be made available each spring and summer preceding enrollment at YSE. Students may make two attempts to pass a waiver exam. For those students who are able to demonstrate sufficient proficiency in a Foundational Knowledge area through passing an exam, a waiver will be provided.

Students who do not take or pass a waiver exam will be auto-enrolled by the Registrar to complete the required Foundational Knowledge course(s). These courses must be completed during a student’s first Fall semester. More information about the courses can be found by clicking on the following links:

Foundational Knowledge Preparation

YSE recommends that incoming MEM students have previously taken the following undergraduate courses in order to be prepared for the MEM curriculum:

Physical Science

A course that satisfies one of the following:

  • Earth science course covering geosphere, atmosphere, and hydrosphere
  • 2 out of 4 of the following: hydrology, soil science, environmental chemistry, and climate science

Social Science

Two courses in any of the following areas:
  • Environmental Governance
  • Environmental Anthropology
  • Environmental History
  • Environmental Justice
  • Environmental Sociology
  • Human Geography
  • Political Ecology
  • Religion and Ecology


A course in at least one of the following areas:
  • General Ecology
  • Biodiversity Science
  • Population or Community Ecology
  • Ecosystem Science or Ecosystems Ecology 


  • A course in Principles of Microeconomics