Protecting the Environment by Degrees

Protecting the Environment by DegreesFor the 42 students enrolled in Montclair State’s doctoral degree program in environmental management, it’s easy being green. Since 2009, the transdisciplinary program has prepared environmental scholars, scientists and research professionals for leadership positions in a flourishing field. “Our doctoral students are scientists who understand policy and policy people who understand science,” says director Dibyendu “Dibs” Sarkar.

“Our program is unique,” says Sarkar. “It’s the University’s first real interdisciplinary PhD program, the tri-state area’s first and only PhD program in environmental management and one of a very few such programs in the country.”

Sarkar was hired in 2008 to help build a PhD program from the previous, and less universally recognized, Doctor of Environmental Management (DEM) degree program. The DEM was phased out, with its students moving to the new PhD program in 2009.

Admission is highly competitive, with only eight of 47 applicants accepted in 2013. Of the program’s 42 students, 30 are enrolled full time. According to Sarkar, fewer than 15 percent of the students have master’s degrees from Montclair State. Roughly 40 percent of the doctoral candidates are international students.

Michael Pawlish, who receives his PhD in May, entered the program with an environmental science degree from Sweden’s Lund University and an MBA from San Francisco State University. “I was looking for a PhD program that combined these two traditionally opposing schools of thought,” he says. Interdisciplinary coursework, taught by the University’s research-active faculty, spans natural and social sciences, engineering, environmental law and policy as well as economics and management.

According to College of Science and Mathematics Dean Robert Prezant, the program is distinguished by its focus on finding viable solutions to the critical issues that threaten our planet. “Serious questions, critical data collection and real-world analyses all matter in the pursuit of our students’ dissertation research,” he explains.

Students work with individual faculty mentors on research projects that focus on any of five research clusters: environmental quality and remediation; environmental and urban ecology; earth systems and climate change; environmental modeling and visualization; and environmental policy, socioeconomic and management impacts.