Environmental Science and Policy (ES&P)

Welcome Class of 2015!

Welcome to the Environmental Science and Policy (ES&P) Program

Dear incoming ES&P student,

Welcome to Clark University’s Environmental Science and Policy program in the Department of International Development, Community, and Environment (IDCE). We are delighted you will be joining us at the end of August and are looking forward to getting to know more about your experiences and interests. In light of your transition to Clark, we’ve enclosed several items that may be of interest to you. Below are some academic and logistical issues to assist you in preparing for your first semester at IDCE.

Academic Preparation

IDCE provides many opportunities to study and engage in a whole range of environmental issues and challenges. ES&P students, for example, have opportunities to work on many IDCE research grants and local initiatives with ES&P faculty. Halina Brown is working on a project with many local stakeholders focused on retrofitting the housing stock in Worcester to increase energy efficiency. GISDE professor Yelena Ogneva-Himmelberger, IDCE research professor Rob Goble and I are participating in the National Children’s Study: the largest and most ambitious long-term study ever conducted on how environmental and genetic factors impact children’s health and development in the U.S. I am also involved in developing networks for sustainability innovation locally and internationally. Jennie Stephens is conducting research on deployment of wind power and other emerging energy technologies with potential to contribute to an energy system transformation and climate change mitigation. This research is supported from a grant from the National Science Foundation’s Science and Society program.

We encourage you to think ahead about your courses, possible research topics, and to consider potential fieldwork, internships, and external funding opportunities. During the summer months you will be assigned a faculty advisor whom you will meet with when you arrive on campus before classes start in the fall semester. However, before you arrive on campus, it is worthwhile spending some time to start identifying opportunities that you might want to pursue in your ES&P master’s program. Some graduate school fellowship applications are due in November or December for work to be carried out the following academic year. So planning ahead and being prepared to think about fellowship application processes during your first semester in the M.S. program will be helpful. Your faculty advisor and other ES&P faculty will be able to mentor you during this process.
As a way to prepare for graduate studies in ES&P starting in the Fall 2013, we suggest that you do some reading about topics like sustainable resource management (water, energy, biodiversity, soils), climate change, toxics and environmental hazards, vulnerability, and adaptation. Many resources of global relevance are available on the Web, including reports on Sustainable Development (see “SD21” by the UN), Millennium Development Goals, Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Sustainability, risk and vulnerability, and working in close partnership with affected people and other groups are overarching themes running through IDCE, connecting all four of our graduate programs.

Increasingly the complexities of environmental challenges are being recognized in the media, so we encourage you to pay attention to environmental news stories, and also begin to delve deeper into the areas in which you are particularly interested. The journals Science and Nature often have environmental science articles, as do the less specialized publications, such as Scientific American, Discover Magazine, Environment, The Economist, and sections of newspapers, such as the New York Times (US) and the Independent (UK). The online environmental news magazine, Grist, is an excellent resource that provides daily environmental news summaries. Democracy Now is an excellent alternative news program online with many issues of social and environmental injustice that resonate with us at Clark. Rapidly changing public perceptions about the risks of climate change and future energy challenges make this an exciting and interesting time in many respects for those of us interested in the intersection of environmental science and policy.

If you have particular areas of research interest, you could start an exploratory literature review before you arrive at Clark. You will be developing your individual final M.S. project plan throughout your first year. We at Clark take pride in our heritage as both a liberal arts and a research university, where you will have the freedom to develop your own project, or you may be able to work with faculty on one of their projects.

In the ES&P program, we emphasize critical thinking, and the acquisition of quantitative and qualitative analytical skills. I therefore strongly urge you to brush up on valuable quantitative and computer skills. For example, you should be familiar with MS Excel and be comfortable using algebra to solve equations. Familiarity with basic calculus (first-order differential equations to describe rates of change) and basic statistics will be very helpful too. This preparation will serve you well in your graduate coursework and research. If your math is rusty, you may benefit from reviewing Chapter 1 of the text: Masters, G.M. (2007), Introduction to Environmental Engineering and Science, 3rd edition, New Jersey: Prentice Hall (ISBN 0131481932), which is used for the required class “Fundamentals of Environmental Science” that you will probably take during the Fall semester. This will help you gauge the level of math needed and will familiarize you with the material.

Living in Worcester

You might also be interested to know a little about Worcester, hometown to Clark. Worcester was one of the centers of the U.S. Industrial Revolution, and as such, has a fascinating development-environment history. It also has an ethnically diverse population: on the streets you can hear Spanish, Vietnamese, and many other languages. For many reasons, IDCE is fortunate to have the city of Worcester, and the Central Massachusetts region as a context to study and explore the complexities of many socioeconomic and environmental issues.

If you haven’t already, it’s time to start thinking about housing arrangements for the Fall. You should plan on arriving early to secure housing. Some students have already visited campus and toured the surrounding area looking for apartments or made arrangements to stay in University-owned graduate housing. Graduate students usually share an apartment with two or three other students to reduce residential costs. Only you can decide which option best suits your needs. More resources about housing can be found on the Admitted Students webpage.


If you are an international student and need an I-20 form to obtain a U.S. visa, please return the appropriate international student information form to Paula Hall, c/o the IDCE Office. This form was previously sent to all international students in the packet with the appointment letter.

IDCE staff will be in the office during most of the summer. Also, as the coordinator of the ES&P graduate program, I will be available via email. Please do not hesitate to get in touch if we can provide you with additional information. Please remember to check the Admitted Students webpage (http://clarku.edu/departments/idce/students/incoming_class.html) regularly to help you prepare for your arrival and view questions asked by your peers in the FAQ section.

Best wishes for a lively and productive upcoming experience in our ES&P graduate program within the IDCE department at Clark University.

Sincerely, Timothy J. Downs, D.Env.
Associate Professor & Coordinator of the Masters Program in Environmental Science and Policy


[ Spotlight Profile ]

Ana Monteiro (ES&P '07)

Ana Monteiro now works in Cape Verde with InfraCo, an infrastructure development company that promotes socially responsible projects, primarily in Africa. Building upon her ES&P final M.A. project that focused on renewable energy in Africa.

The Cabéolica Wind Project is developing four wind farms on four different islands in order to diversify the energy matrix of the country and make Cape Verde one of the leading African countries in terms of wind energy capacity.

Read more | Other profiles