Five-year program at YSE trains leaders in environmental science

Yale College students interested in pursuing a career in environmental science have the option of completing a master’s degree at the Yale School of the Environment in one year instead of the usual two.

02:27, 01 November 2022

Staff reporter

Virginia Peng, Contributing Illustrator

The Yale School of the Environment offers an accelerated five-year master’s degree program for Yale College students who wish to pursue a graduate degree in environmental science.

The five-year Bachelor of Arts/Bachelor of Science-Masters program at YSE is an opportunity for Yale students to earn a master’s degree in one year instead of the usual two years after completing their undergraduate degree. This study program began 20 years ago. Interested students apply during their senior year of college and are encouraged to take a year or two off to work before returning to Yale to complete their graduate studies. Students can apply for a Masters in Environmental Management, or MEM, or a Masters in Environmental Science, or MESc.

“The ultimate goals of YSE and EVST have been to produce the next generation of scientists and environmental leaders who can bring the best science available into the design of ever more effective solutions,” John Wargo GRD’ 81, chair of the environmental studies major and program at Yale College told the News.

Program Application

Natasha Feshbach ’20 MEM ’23 first heard about the program during her freshman year. As an environmental studies student at Yale, she thought the program would be “too good an opportunity to pass up.”

Feshbach explained that the transition from undergraduate studies in environmental studies to his fifth year in the MEM program was smooth. Many of the prerequisite courses necessary for graduate studies in environmental science, such as chemistry and physics, are already included in the undergraduate major.

Dorje Wu ’21 MEM ’23, currently a five-year Bachelor of Arts/Bachelor of Science-MEM student, heard about the program from an upperclass friend during her sophomore year. Wu already knew he wanted to pursue higher education, and the five-year program at Yale was an opportunity to achieve that goal while saving time and money.

“Implicitly, I also think I wanted to apply for the [five-year] program as a way to make up for my ‘lost’ year due to COVID,” Wu wrote in an email to The News.

Like Feshbach, Wu said the program had no major effect on his senior year.

However, he took a few YSE classes in the two semesters of his senior year to bolster his candidacy and show that he was “academically ready for graduate school.”

Community at YSE

“There are so many things I enjoy about YSE, but the two most important to me are the community and the courses,” Wu wrote. “I really liked the MODs – 3 week orientation of YSE in August for all incoming students. It was a great way to not only connect with other students, but also learn about different environmental topics and get involved in New Haven… I also really enjoyed the lessons – of course there are great teachers here, but I was surprised how accessible they all are.

Yale College alumni who participate in the five-year joint degree program do not form a separate group within the regular MEM student body at the School of the Environment, Feshbach said. However, she noted that she knew some of her current classmates from her undergraduate studies at Yale.

Wu compared the YSE community to undergraduate residential colleges since there are “about 150” students in its cohort.

Undergraduate majors for interested students

Yale College students who are interested in the program do not have to major in environmental studies, but must demonstrate how their undergraduate coursework has prepared them for an accelerated course of study at YSE. Specifically, Yale College students who take eight courses that faculty deem “substantially equivalent” to YSE graduate courses are eligible to apply to complete a master’s degree in one year. Wargo added that cross-courses between the College and YSE can count toward the eight-course requirement.

Students majoring in environmental studies at the undergraduate level choose a concentration within the major, Wargo added. Concentrations are centered on major themes in environmental science, including climate change, renewable energy, and urban environments. YSE master’s students can also choose specializations similar to these undergraduate concentrations, allowing interested students to continue working in their undergraduate area of ​​interest.

“The faculty at YSE, and then FES, recognized that students pursuing certain majors were particularly qualified for 2-year master’s programs, and that some had taken undergraduate or advanced courses that were substantially equivalent . [to] some of the requirements for 2-year master’s programs,” Wargo wrote in an email to the News.

According to Wargo, the most common majors for applicants other than environmental studies include ecology and evolutionary biology, earth and planetary sciences, economics, political science, and anthropology.

Interested students can also pursue double majors with Environmental Science and Economics, Earth and Planetary Science, or Ecology and Evolutionary Biology during their undergraduate careers.

“YSE faculty have been especially interested in students who want to build on their Yale College senior research projects while in graduate school,” Wargo wrote. “This could be supported by field or laboratory research, or computer modeling of complex systems needed to understand environmental issues. Other students are proficient in computerized spatial analyzes to study the distribution of pollution, health disparities, ecological changes over time, and patterns of urban growth.

Gap year requirement and professional development

Normally, the program requires admitted students to spend one or two years working before returning to Yale to complete their studies. Wargo explained that the break between undergraduate and graduate studies allows students to enter the master’s program with a clear idea of ​​their specialization and career path. Yale College alumni can also apply for the five-year program up to two years after graduation.

Feshbach also praised the resources of the School of the Environment as a major attribute of the program. She said there are a variety of resources available for students pursuing careers in environmental fields and many opportunities for professional development.

“I’m in a really cool class called ‘Social Justice in the Global Food System,'” Feshbach said. “The whole class is a partnership with the city of New Haven.”

Students in the class work together on projects and partner with New Haven community food organizations to explore inequities in food access. The class combines both theory and practice by encouraging students to apply theoretical knowledge and frameworks to their real-world projects.

Although environmental studies is a relatively new and non-traditional career path, YSE’s professional resources ensure students are prepared to build their own path and support them throughout their academic and professional journeys, said Feshbach.

The School of the Environment also offers joint degrees with Yale Law School, the Jackson School of Global Affairs, and the School of Management, among others.


Selin Nalbantoglu covers the School of Environment as a reporter for the SciTech bureau. Previously, she covered groundbreaking research as an associate journalist. She is a sophomore at Saybrook College.

Comments are closed.