MEM Specialization in Human Dimensions
of Environmental Management

Purpose and Scope

Conservation and development planning, and climate change adaptation and mitigation, at national and international scales, inevitably rest on the aggregated decision-making of individual people, households, and communities.  People are thus at the core both of decision-making affecting the environment and of the experience of environmental change.  Teaching and research in this specialization addresses this critical nexus of society and environment by spanning 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 distinguished by a critical approach to orthodox conservation and development models and management, entailing the study of policy discourses, institutions, and structures of power.  Many of the students in this specialization carry out grant-funded research and/or work during the summer after their first year, often internationally, drawing on excellent on-campus financial sources for this.  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. 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.  Students have been awarded prestigious post-graduate fellowships such as the Fox Fellowship and White House Management Fellowships.  Many students find jobs in prominent NGOs working on conservation and development issues requiring nuanced understanding of social dynamics and integrative solutions to problems.

Pre- Matriculation Preparation

The two years in F&ES will pass quickly, and it is desirable to think and plan about what you want to do here before you arrive. 
  1. Familiarize yourself with the web pages of your assigned advisor and other faculty in this specialization whose courses you wish to take, including the project/thesis topics of past/current Master’s students.
  2. If you are working or traveling the summer before matriculation, keep notes on ideas, questions, internships, etc. that that you might want to study or pursue in your classes during your first year here and during the summer after your first year.
  3. Regularly scan the NY Times and other news services for topics relevant to your interests.
  4. At the end of these guidelines, the Human Dimensions faculty offer their suggestions for a voluntary but stimulating pre-matriculation summer reading list.


Students of this specialization, like all MEM students, are strongly encouraged to complete the MEM Foundations courses1.  These courses provide a common foundation of concepts, principles, and tools that all MEM students must learn, regardless of their specialization, to excel as professional environmental managers.  The Foundations courses are listed below:
Specialization Core
Students must complete at least 2 courses from the Specialization Core, which will introduce the students to the major theories, methods, and debates pertaining to the human dimensions of environmental management.  These courses are most usefully taken during the student’s first year, as they will give the student the conceptual tools to write proposals for a research or other project during the summer after the first year.  (Note: taking F&ES 520a or F&ES 525a or F&ES 535a as a Foundation course does not count toward the 2 core course requirement.)
Students must complete at least 1 and preferably 2 methods courses.  Certain courses (551a, 726b, 755b, and 969b) are most useful when taken during the first year of study, to provide the student with the necessary tools for carrying out a research or other project during the summer after the first year.  Other courses (745a) are most useful when taken during the second year of study, to provide the student with tools for carrying out data-analysis and write-up of material for the MEM project, thesis, or capstone.  With the consent of their advisor, students can petition (the Specialization coordinator) for reasonable substitutes courses, either other FES courses or courses offered by other Yale departments.
Specialization Electives
Students must take at least 3 electives from at least two of the following bins (although your advisor can approve alternative, appropriate courses)

A. Development & Conservation:  
B. Climate/Environmental Change:  
C. Policy & Institutions:  
D. Religion & Ecology:  
E. Globalization:  
Capstone Project/Course 
All students are required to complete a Capstone Project, which involves the directed study and analysis of a particular question or problem in the human dimensions of Environmental Management.  The Capstone Project is undertaken in the third or fourth semester, and is often based on data gathered in the course of research or an internship during the summer after the first year, in addition to integrating knowledge, methodological approaches, and interpretive techniques gained from courses taken during the earlier stages of the MEM.  The topic of a Capstone Project is typically chosen by the student with input from the student’s advisor.  A Capstone Project may involve writing a management plan for a client such as a government agency or NGO; and/or it may involve writing a paper suitable for publication in a scientific journal.   All Capstone Projects have at least three deliverables:  (i) a brief project proposal submitted by the third week of the semester; (ii) a mid-semester progress report; and (iii) a final written report.  An extended abstract describing the project will be published on the School’s new Student Research Database.  The Capstone Project may be carried out during a Capstone Course, an Independent Study, or one of the advanced seminars (e.g., 862b, 869b, 965b) designed for this purpose.

Faculty Coordinator: Michael Dove

Specialization Faculty: Carol Carpenter, Ben Cashore, Susan Clark, Amity Doolittle, Justin Farrell, Gordon Geballe, John Grim, Robert Mendelsohn, Karen Seto, Kalyanakrishnan ‘Shivi’ Sivaramakrishnan, Mary-Evelyn Tucker, John Wargo, Harvey Weiss.


Pre-Matriculation Summer Reading List

(stimulating, recommended, but not required)

  1. Cronon, William. 1996. The Trouble with Wilderness, or Getting Back to the Wrong Nature. In: Uncommon Ground: Rethinking the Human Place In Nature, William Cronon ed., pp.69-90. New York: W. W. Norton.
  2. DuPuis, E. Melanie and David Goodman. 2005. Should we go 'home' to eat?: Toward a reflexive politics of localism. Journal of Rural Studies 21: 359-371.
  3. Fourcade, Marion. 2011. Cents and Sensibility: Economic Valuation and the Nature of “Nature”. American Journal of Sociology 116(6): 1721-77.
  4. Hewitt, Kenneth. 1983  The Idea of Calamity in a Technocratic Age. In: Interpretations of Calamity, From the Viewpoint of Human Ecology, Kenneth Hewitt ed., pp.3-32. Boston: Allen and Unwin.
  5. Masco, J. 2009. Bad weather: On planetary crisis. Social Studies of Science XX/X: 1–34.
  6. Moser, Susanne C. and Eckstrom, Julia A. 2010. A framework to diagnose barriers to climate change adaptation, PNAS 107(51): 22026-22031.
  7. Muth, R., & Bolland, J. M. 1983. Social Context: A Key to Effective Problem Solving. Planning and Changing 14(4): 214-25.
  8. Robertson, M. M. 2000. No net loss: wetland restoration and the incomplete capitalization of nature. Antipode, 32(4): 463-493.
  9. Scott, James C. 1998. Nature and Space. Chapter 1 in: Seeing Like A State: How Certain Schemes to Improve the Human Condition Have Failed, pp.11-52. New Haven: Yale University Press.
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