Environmental Science and Policy Doctoral Dual Major

VISION - In the 21st century, environmental professionals need both interdisciplinary breadth and disciplinary depth. This is the model that some have called the T-shaped graduate. Disciplinary depth is the pillar of the T that provides command of specialized literature and the meticulous skills required to conduct sound research. Interdisciplinary breadth is the crossbar of the T, providing skills and conceptual frameworks that allow communication across different fields of knowledge. This type of training develops experts who understand the context of their research and can work effectively in multidisciplinary teams. 

PROGRAM - Doctoral students pursue a Ph.D. in one of MSU's doctoral programs. In addition, they complete the coursework and other requirements for the Dual Major in Environmental Science and Policy. The Dual Major provides students with knowledge about the diverse disciplines brought to bear on contemporary environmental problems. It is designed to provide an understanding of how various disciplines conceptualize environmental issues and how scientific information can be used in environmental decision-making and in creating environmental policy. 


Students apply to the Environmental Science and Policy Program (ESPP) either as incoming students or within the first two years of their doctoral program. Please note that applications for the Fall Semester are due February 1 and applications for the Spring Semester are due October 15. Your application should include the following materials:

  • All applicants:
    • Fillable application form, to be signed and returned to ESPP.
    • A letter requesting admission to the ESP Dual Major and describing your professional interest in environmental science and policy.
    • Your Curriculum Vitae.
    • A draft memorandum of understanding that outlines how you will complete both your primary major and ESP major. Visit the Forms and Handbook page for fillable .pdf versions of these forms.
      • MOU for College of Social Science Students
      • MOU for Non-College of Social Science Students
      • MOU Addendum Form
  • Incoming students (if you are applying to a doctoral program):
    • Ask the doctoral program to which you are applying to forward a copy of your application package to ESPP.
  • Current MSU students (if you are already enrolled in a doctoral program):
    • Ask your graduate advisor to send a letter to ESPP indicating that you are in good standing and that the advisor supports your application.

Compile all of the materials listed under “All applicants” above and submit them to ESPP (espp@msu.edu) in a single email, preferably as a single pdf file. Please use “Application to ESPP Dual Major” in the subject line of your email.


The interdepartmental dual major in environmental science and policy is administered by the College of Social Science. The dual major is available only to those students who plan to complete a Ph.D. degree program that involves environmental science and policy and who have a graduate major at Michigan State University. The student does not have the option of completing a dual major in environmental science and policy alone.

The educational objectives of the interdepartmental program are to (1) develop interdisciplinary knowledge and skills across natural and social science disciplines related to the environment and to enable collaboration with researchers and practitioners from other disciplines towards addressing environmental challenges; (2) gain knowledge of and experience with science-based environmental policies, including how scientific knowledge can contribute to practical policies and how interdisciplinary collaboration can improve the effectiveness of policies; and (3) gain practical experience in communicating scientific research to multiple audiences, including scientific communities and the general public.

In addition to meeting the requirements of the University and of the College of Social Science, students must meet the requirements specified below.

  • Admission

    In order to enroll in the dual major in environmental science and policy a student must also have been admitted to a major at Michigan State University. The Graduate Program Council, composed of members of the faculty from participating departments will review applications for admission and recommend acceptance of applicants for admission. In special cases an applicant who has deficiencies in background courses may be admitted to the dual major on a provisional basis.

  • Guidance Committee

    The program shall be planned in accordance with the statement on  Dual Major Doctoral Degrees in the  Graduate Education section of the Academic Programs catalog. Committees must include members from at least two major academic units at MSU and at least one member of the student's doctoral dissertation committee shall be an environmental science and policy affiliated faculty member.

    Students in the dual major in environmental science and policy are expected to attend a number of community-building activities with other students from different disciplines.

  • Dual Major Request

    All doctoral dual majors must be approved by the Graduate School. After students are admitted to the program by ESPP, they must request the dual major via GradPlan and a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU). The GradPlan and MOU outline how students will complete their dual major. Students must submit their dual major request (GradPlan and MOU) before the end of their second year at MSU. Please visit the Forms and Handbook webpage to access the following forms. 

    MOU Template for College of Social Science Students

    MOU Template for Non-College of Social Science Students

    MOU Addendum Form

  • Requirements for the Dual Major in Environmental Science and Policy
    1. All of the following courses with a minimum grade-point average of 3.0 with no more than one course’s grade below 3.0 in courses used in fulfillment of the requirements for the dual major (12 credits):

            ESP    800    Principles of Environmental Science and Policy  (3)

            ESP    801    Physical, Chemical and Biological Processes of the Environment  (3)

            ESP    802    Human Systems and Environment  (3)

            ESP    804    Environmental Applications and Analysis  (3)

    Approved course substitutions for ESP 801, 802, and 804 may be made by consulting the list of approved substitutes at https://reg.msu.edu/AcademicPrograms/Text.aspx?Section=129.  

    1. Twenty-four credits in Doctoral Dissertation Research (course number 999) from the student's departmental major.
    2. Pass a comprehensive examination that will be defined by the requirements of the student's major department and that will include a written examination in which the student demonstrates a knowledge of environmental science and policy as determined by the guidance committee.
    3. Submit a dissertation that, in the judgment of the student’s guidance committee, represents the integration of environmental science and policy and the student’s departmental major.
    4. OTHER EXPECTATIONS: Research Colloquia Presentation
    Planning and making your own presentation: The student-organized colloquia provides ESPP students a venue to gain practical knowledge and experience organizing interdisciplinary scholastic activities, skills necessary for a variety of career activities such as professional conferences and research panels.  There are two acceptable formats for colloquia: a panel discussion or a marathon. For the panel discussion, a dual major student first identifies a broader research area that encompasses his or her research work and then invites one or more other speakers who are experts in this area to serve on a discussion panel. The panelists could be fellow students, faculty members such as the student’s advisors or committee members, or other researchers. A typical colloquium will include a 20-minute presentation by the student followed by 10 minutes of questions and answers for the student, and then a 30-minute panel discussion moderated by the student. For a marathon, multiple students work with the planning committee to plan a series of student presentations. As with the panel discussion, each student should prepare a 20-minute presentation. Alternative formats can be discussed with the student organizing committee and the ESPP Associate Director for Academics.
    The student organizer will be responsible for:
    • scheduling a date in the seminar series before the start of the semester with the colloquium committee
    • inviting and organizing the panelists; preparing a presentation; and
    • preparing questions to lead the panel discussion after the student presentation. 
    The number of student-organized colloquia will vary each semester to accommodate dual major students so they can meet this requirement. Questions about organizing your colloquium should be sent to espp@msu.edu.