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 40-45 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. 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

Three thematic areas of study are available to students through elective courses: Energy and Climate Change, Sustainable Communities, and Ecology.  We aim to offer an elective in each area of study every quarter. These areas do not constitute a designation at graduation but do provide students with specialized areas of knowledge. Electives are four credits, and meet one night (Monday or Wednesday, 6-10pm) each week with some offering day or weekend field trips. Most electives are taught by adjunct faculty who are professionals in the environmental field. Electives are also available to special students, or non-enrolled students.

Elective credits are earned through:

Thesis - 16 credits

Pie chart of 2013 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.

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.