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Master of Public Administration in Environmental Science and Policy

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  • Course description
    The Master of Public Administration in Environmental Science and Policy trains sophisticated public managers and policymakers, who apply innovative, systems-based thinking to environmental issues. The program challenges students to think systemically and act pragmatically. To meet this challenge, we offer a high-quality graduate program in management and policy analysis that emphasizes practical skills and is enriched by ecological and planetary science.
    Our approach reflects the system-level thinking that is needed to understand ecological interactions and maintain the health of Earth’s interconnected ecological, institutional, economic, and social systems.

    Graduates are creating a new profession of earth systems problem-solvers: individuals who are prepared for leadership positions in local, state, and federal government agencies, as well as in nonprofit organizations and the environmental divisions of private corporations. They are also well suited for designing cost-effective programs and implementing policies. Most importantly, a deep understanding of earth systems informs their work, allowing them to craft the kinds of solutions necessary for our increasingly complex environmental problems.

    A Pioneering Program
    We have designed the Environmental MPA Program by combining Columbia University’s hands-on approach to teaching public policy and administration with pioneering thinking about the environment. Completion of this professional program leads to a Master of Public Administration (MPA) degree in Environmental Science and Policy from the University’s School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA).

    An Appreciation of Earth Systems
    Two fundamental insights shape this master’s program: the realization that institutional, social, and economic processes interconnect to both sustain and endanger the planet and the need for professionals who can maintain the health of
    this interconnected system. Only by combining an understanding of earth systems issues with management strategies will it be possible to cope with the threats to planetary sustainability.

    A Hands-On Craft Approach to Teaching Public Policy
    To train effective earth systems professionals, the program focuses on the practical skills necessary to understand the formulation and management of public policy. The teaching of public policy and administration is the core of the program. This set of classes focuses on specific professional and vocational skills, such as memo writing, oral briefings, group process and team building, leadership, strategic thinking, spreadsheet and other forms of financial analysis, and the use of computer programs, case studies of earth systems issues, and the World Wide Web. The principal goal of the core curriculum is to provide students with the analytic, communication, and work skills required to be problem-solving earth systems professionals.

    The skills and concepts include an understanding of:
    • the connections between policy intent, program design, organizational capacity, and political feasibility;
    • the relationship of program to organization and organization to budget;
    • the design of studies that are methodologically rigorous and defensible within the constraints of available resources;
    • environmental economics, politics, policy, and management;
    • public and environmental ethics;
    • perceptions of environmental quality and environmental values, and how to explain science to nonscientists and manage the work of scientists;
    • how to manage organizational change and innovation;
    • how to work in groups and deal with group conflict;
    • professional communication, including memo and report writing and the conduct of formal oral briefings.
    A New Breed of Environmental Professionals
    Courses in environmental science round out the training so that our graduates will be able to inform the decision-making process and manage science experts. The policy and management challenges our graduates are being trained to address include global change issues, such as global warming, but more frequently they focus on air, water, solid waste, and toxic waste management issues. Graduates of the Environmental MPA Program are prepared for the roles of analyst, manager, and translator of scientific knowledge. This Environmental MPA Program requires more environmental science than any other public policy master’s degree in the world. The skills and concepts involve an understanding of scientific method, including observation, hypothesis generation, and hypothesis testing; the chemical processes affecting environmental quality and public health; collection and analysis of field and laboratory data; and systems modeling.

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