We have shaped the program based on our view of emerging environmental problems. Clearly, environmental problems are becoming more global and "multi-disciplinary." As environmental science progresses and our policy analyses become more powerful, increasingly we see environmental problems as complex and interconnected, and thus taxing our institutions and governments to manage them.
To understand present and emerging environmental problems you need to integrate ideas and skills from several disciplines. However, environmental studies is a rapidly developing field and it is not always clear which ideas and skills need to be integrated to address an emerging issue.
Environmental studies is an exciting but challenging field of study, but there are not established, authoritative texts. In the absence of a "received body of knowledge" we believe that it is important for you to learn how to make your own way. Active learning is part of the Brown philosophy of education. But it is especially important in environmental studies, where the next generation of practitioners will need to develop the available guideposts (and write the more authoritative texts).
To help you develop your capacity to develop your own path, we emphasize the use of explicit frameworks of analysis and understanding. The master's thesis is the keystone and the integrative culmination of our program - your courses are pre-selected to support your thesis work.
The program does not begin with traditional disciplines and search for their application to environmental problems. Instead we focus on the problems and from them the development of necessary knowledge, decision and action; which requires learning how to draw information from the disciplines that bear on these decisions. Thus as part of our program, we encourage you to become familiar with the language of science as well as the language of policy, to understand the different vantage points of each, and to integrate them.