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George Mason University
2002-03 University Catalog

Environmental Science and Policy

Environmental Science and Public Policy, Ph.D.

The Ph.D. in Environmental Science and Public Policy is an interdisciplinary program in the College of Arts and Sciences, which draws on faculty and expertise from the Environmental Science and Policy core faculty as well as from the departments of Biology, Public and International Affairs, Chemistry, Economics, Geography and Earth Science, and Sociology and Anthropology, and the schools of Computational Sciences and Public Policy.

This program provides students training to contribute to the solution of complex environmental problems, which requires students to develop knowledge and skills in the collection, analysis, and interpretation of scientific data as well as in the integration of scientific understanding into the public policy process.

Admission Requirements

Applicants should have a bachelor's degree with an overall GPA of at least 3.000. Applicants should have taken at least two semesters of chemistry and three semesters of biology, including a course in ecology. Application deadline for admission in the fall semester is February 15. Admission to spring semester is not available.

In addition to the materials required of all applicants for graduate study at George Mason, applicants should submit the following:

1. Scores on the aptitude portion of the GRE (This requirement may be waived if the applicant has a master's degree in an appropriate field.)

2. Three letters of recommendation (At least two of these should be from individuals with doctorates.)

3. A recent resume

4. A substantial statement of interest in the program, which should include a description of a potential focusenvironmental science or environmental public policyand an explanation of career and research goals

In addition, it is recommended that each applicant schedule an interview with the program director or an environmental faculty member in the chosen focus. Admission decisions are based on the student's qualifications and the availability of a faculty advisor.

Degree Requirements

The Environmental Science and Public Policy doctoral program requires a minimum of 78 graduate credits beyond the bachelor's degree. Students with a master's degree in an appropriate field may obtain a reduction of credit for appropriate course work of up to 30 graduate credits. To ensure that all students obtain the necessary skills and knowledge to function as an environmental professional, the program requires all students to fulfill the following category requirements:

Category 1. Natural sciences: A minimum of 12 credits is required in areas of natural science such as biology, chemistry, geology, geography, or environmental engineering.

Category 2. Public policy: A minimum of 12 credits is required in areas related to public policy such as public affairs, economics, sociology, and business. A course in environmental law is required as part of this category requirement.

Category 3. Methods and technology: A minimum of 6 credits is required in research skills such as statistics, remote sensing, geographic information systems, analytical chemistry, modeling, or information technology.

Category 4. Doctoral seminar: EVPP 991 must be taken once, and students must present a total of 4 graduate seminar credits.

Beyond these basic requirements, students focus their study on environmental science or environmental public policy. Those focusing on environmental science should take a total of 24 credits in natural science; those focusing on environmental public policy should take 24 credits of public policy course work. A specific set of recommended courses is provided for students in the environmental public policy focus. Previous thesis research courses may not be applied to this degree.

On admission to the program, each student is assigned an advisor from the environmental faculty. The advisor guides the student through course selection. An advisor may be changed by mutual consent of student and advisor or by petition to the program director and the dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. Each student is required to complete a course work proposal by the end of the second semester of courses. The proposal must be approved by the advisor and the program director. In keeping with the general philosophy inherent in a Ph.D. degree, students adopt an individual program that focuses on a specific area of research. The students' course work must provide the knowledge base from which original research projects in their specific areas of interest can be successfully completed.

By the end of the fourth semester of course work, the student should assemble a dissertation committee of at least four graduate faculty members with representation from at least two academic departments. After reviewing the student's course work proposal, progress to date, and area of research, the committee makes final recommendations concerning course work that will be codified in the program of study to be signed by all committee members and the program director.

On completion of all (or nearly all) course work, the student may request to take the qualifying or candidacy exam. The qualifying exam has both oral and written parts. The written portion consists of questions submitted by each member of the dissertation committee. Successful completion of the written exam should be followed by the oral portion within one month. The qualifying exam may be repeated once at the discretion of the student's committee. On completion of all course work, passage of the qualifying exam, and submission of the program of study, the student is recommended for advancement to candidacy by the program director. Students must advance to candidacy within six years of admission to the program.


Students must complete a dissertation (12 to 24 credits) by registering for credit in a combination of EVPP 998 and EVPP 999. No more than half the credits specified for dissertation credit on the student's program of study may be taken as EVPP 998 Doctoral Dissertation Proposal. The dissertation is an original written work, demonstrating mastery of subject matter, methodologies, and conceptual foundations on a specific problem in the general field of environmental science and public policy. The dissertation will generally involve collection and analysis of original data or the substantially new analysis and reinterpretation of existing data.

Before the student may enroll in dissertation research, he or she must have advanced to candidacy and have a dissertation proposal approved by the dissertation committee, the program director, and the dean of the college. The student must present the completed dissertation in a public seminar and defend the work before the dissertation committee. Awarding of the degree is contingent on approval of the dissertation by the dissertation committee, the program director, and the dean. The dissertation and defense must be completed within five years of advancement to candidacy.