Master of Environmental Studies

MES Curriculum

The Graduate Program on the Environment offers a 72-credit Master of Environmental Studies (MES) degree.  The degree can be finished in two years (full-time) or three years (part-time).

  • Two Year (Full-Time) Plan: 12 hours per quarter for six quarters. Eight credits of core or thesis plus one four-credit elective each quarter.  Sample full-time schedule (PDF)
  • Three Year (Part-Time) Plan: Eight credits per quarter for nine quarters. Start with four-quarter core sequence, then work on electives before finishing thesis in third year. May also choose to take fourth core class in third year instead of second year. Sample part-time schedule (PDF). 

The curriculum consists of three closely integrated components:

Core Courses - 32 credits

All students take four required programs in sequence to complete the core curriculum. Core courses are team-taught by faculty members from different disciplines, and meet Tuesday and Thursday evenings, 6-10pm.  Core classes teach students to think about environmental challenges from an interdisciplinary perspective while guiding students toward thesis completion in their final year.  Students attend core classes sequentially with a cohort of 45 students.  Classes are offered Fall, Winter, and Spring quarters of the first year and Fall quarter of the second year and are eight credits each. Generally, the first half of each class session includes a lecture or guest speaker and students break into smaller seminars of 15 for the second half. Students can also expect group projects, presentations, research papers, exams, and field trips. Because each core program builds upon prior programs, students are admitted to begin MES only in the fall quarter. All admissions to the MES program are provisional until recommended for candidacy, or full admission, upon satisfactory completion of all requirements of the first two core programs.

Course Descriptions:

Electives - 24 credits

Students must take the equivalent of six four-credit MES electives. Electives meet one night (Monday or Wednesday, 6-10pm) each week with some offering day or weekend field trips. They are typically taught by one faculty member and hold 15 students. Most are taught by adjunct faculty who are professionals in the environmental field. Elective topics cover a variety of environmental subjects including forest ecology, climate justice, GIS, environmental education, renewable energy, and biological conservation. Electives are also available to special students, or non-enrolled students. The program highly encourages students to earn elective credits through on- and off-campus internships that we help students find. Many are paid, and some have led to jobs after graduation!  Our location in the Washington state capital provides a diverse range of internship opportunities.

Elective credits are earned through:

Thesis - 16 credits

Image of 2014 thesis topicsStudents finish the program by completing a thesis in the Winter and Spring quarters of their final year. The MES thesis requires students to engage in research on a real-world topic of their choice that can be examined from an interdisciplinary perspective. Projects involve data collection and analysis, as well as recommendations for further study.  The project preferably should be of value to an external client or organization and not just an academic exercise.  Students find topics through personal interests, outside agency or nonprofit research needs, and Evergreen faculty research needs or suggestions.  Some internships created for MES students may also include a thesis component.

Unlike other institutions, where students are required to find a thesis supervisor prior to attending, MES matches students to their thesis advisor (or "reader") in their second year when the thesis is written.  Only core faculty can be thesis readers, and the program matches them to students based on thesis topic.  Students who know what they want to research in their first year are encouraged to build a relationship with a core faculty member who they think would be a good match. In this case, thesis research can begin prior to the second year.

As the culminating act of the thesis project, students share results with faculty and students in a public oral presentation.  The thesis is written in a workshop setting during the winter and spring quarters of the student's final year. Detailed information may be found on the Thesis Resources webpage. For a complete listing of past thesis projects, visit the MES theses page on Evergreen's Library website or the list of more recent theses in electronic form. You can also check out our Thesis Photo Album on Facebook or this short thesis presentation video.