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 language and conceptual frameworks that allow communication across different fields of knowledge. Together, these develop 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 utilized in environmental decision-making and in creating environmental policy. 

ESP courses are open to all MSU graduate students, not only those enrolled in the dual major.

APPLICATION PACKAGE - To apply, you should forward to ESPP the following materials within the first two years of your admission to MSU:

  • 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.
  • A Curriculum Vitae.
  • If you are applying to a doctoral program: Ask the doctoral program to which you are applying to forward to the Environmental Science and Policy Program a copy of your application package. Please also include a memorandum of understand that outlines how you will complete both your primary major and ESP major. You can download a template here.
  • 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. . Please also include a memorandum of understand that outlines how you will complete both your primary major and ESP major. You can download a template here.


Requirements for the Dual Major

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.


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. 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.

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 http://www.espp.msu.edu/Approved_substitute_courses.pdf.
2. Twenty-four credits in Doctoral Dissertation Research (course number 999) from the student's departmental major.
3. 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.




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.



Research Colloquia Presentation

1. 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.  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 30 to 50 minute presentation by the student followed by 10 minutes of questions and answers for the student, and 30 minute panel discussion with questions for the panel prepared by the student.

The student organizer will be responsible for:

  • scheduling a date in the seminar series before the start of the semester with the series committee
  • inviting and organizing the panelists; preparing a 30 to 50 min. 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.

Principles of ESP

Natural Science and Policy

Social Science and Policy


Fall 2019 ESP 801: Physical, Chemical and Biological Processes of the Environment

SOC 869: Community and Conservation

FW 891 (Sect. 001) Human Dimensions Research in Fisheries and Wildlife

ESP 804: Environmental Applications and Analysis

FW 868: Water Policy and Management

Spring 2020 ESP 800: Introduction to Environmental Science and Policy

CSUS 836: Modeling Natural Resources Systems

ENE 801: Dynamics of Environmental Systems

ESP 802: Human Systems and the Environment