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Graduate Programs

Each student in our program prepares an individual program of study designed specifically for their particular background and goals. The program of study is prepared in consultation with the student’s major professor and the director of the program.

Each student, regardless of the graduate degree selected, is also required to pass an oral examination based upon the chosen program of study.

As part of your graduate career, you will be required to complete a Literacy of Science Review (ENSC 60011) and Oral Exams (ENSC 60021). You may also choose to complete an internship as a part of your curriculum.

Outside Readings

All graduate students must complete several outside readings to ensure a well-rounded degree program. The list of readings can be found on the syllabus for oral exams or by asking one of the faculty.

Degree Planning Tool

To help in planning your two-year program, please use the degree planning tools we provide. Most of the caveats or footnotes for each class are listed at the bottom of the tool, and they typically match the graduate catalog. In the event that there is a conflict between the planning tool and the catalog, the catalog wins. Please ask Dr. Bennett for these tools.

Course substitutions can be recorded at the bottom of the degree planning tool. You must list course name and number, and have a graduate advisor sign off on the substitution. Keep up with this form, because when you file the intent to graduate, the graduate director(s) can sign off and send to the Dean’s office as the final approval of your course substitutions. Without this signed form, you won’t be allowed to graduate if you have substitutions.

Course Rotation Schedule

It is important to note that many of our courses are only offered once every two years.  Please check the faculty pages for when each course is offered or just click this handy faculty course rotation. Of course, all regularly-scheduled offerings are subject to change when research or other project demands require it.

Course Scheduling

  • Semester 1: If you are a thesis student, find your thesis topic and major advisor.
  • Semester 2: Take ENSC 60203 (Issues) and ENSC 60001 (Presentations).
  • Semester 3: Take ENSC 60011 (LOSR) by week two. If you are a thesis student, take ENSC 70980 (first semester thesis hours).
  • Semester 4: Take ENSC 60021 (Orals) in week 3 and no later than week 9. If you are a thesis student, take ENSC 70990 (second semester thesis hours).

Note: if you are a thesis student and will not finish in semester 4, you can enroll in ENSC 70990 for 2 hours instead of 3. You can then enroll in the final hour of ENSC 70990 during semester in which you graduate. Also, you MUST be enrolled in at least 1 hour of thesis to perform field work.

Thesis draft is due to the major professor by FEBRUARY 1 of semester 4, and to full committee by March 1.

The three one-hour courses that are required for all master’s degrees in ENSC are designed to give the student experience in each of three categories: PowerPoint presentations, literature review and scientific writing, and oral presentations.

You will present your thesis proposal in this course, complete with literature review and introduction. Non-thesis students will present any topic within the constraints of the course.

You will be given a set of questions from which to choose. You have 48 hours to research and write a 2000-3000 word paper using scientific references. Your thesis statement is extremely important, so ensure you address the various components of the question that you choose. Your references should be mostly recent – past five years or so. Older references are allowed if they significantly contribute.

Your oral exam is your demonstration of your ability to synthesize information into a cohesive argument. It is based largely on your coursework and is structured similarly to ENSC 60203 (Issues). You also have a significant outside reading list that is included in the oral exam. While “nitty gritty” course details are not the focus, you should be well versed in the broad topics within environmental science. It does not include your thesis defense if you are a thesis student.

Separate from oral exam. Conducted in two sessions: the first is a closed-door examination of your thesis with your committee. After passing that, you conduct a public presentation.


  • Start on the reading list early and write a brief synopsis of each book as you go. You can refer to these synopses when preparing for the oral exam.
  • Prepare study notes for each course you take as you take it. Refer to these when preparing for orals.
  • Read Dr. Slattery’s freshman text book: “Contemporary Environmental Issues.”
  • Plan to study and prepare for at least 2 months.

Research Funding

Environmental Sciences Program ‐ MS students with a faculty advisor:

Students have access to research funds to support research-related costs. These funds provide up to $3,000/per student (whether TA or not). The application for these funds will be completed and defended as part of the Presentations (ENSC 60001) class and is required for all students in their second semester. Additional funding is also available through the Dean’s office.

Environmental Sciences Program ‐ MS students with a biology faculty advisor:

MS students in environmental sciences have access to the Biology Adkins fund. These funds provide up to $3,000/per student (whether TA or not). Students will take Scientific Presentations offered in Biology (BIOL 60001), comply with Biology Adkins proposal guidelines including meeting with their committee, preparation of a written proposal submitted to Biology’s Committee on Graduate Studies, and oral presentation of the proposed research to the biology faculty in a departmental seminar.