Research Article Open Access

Evolution of a Graduate Environmental Science Program

Will Focht and Talya Henderson


Problem statement: Environmental science programs vary widely in their curricula and pedagogical approaches. In part, this is due to the lack of a unified agreement on field identity. However, program differences are also the product of variable program histories. Approach: This essay described the founding and subsequent history of the Environmental Science Graduate Program at Oklahoma State University, its oldest and largest interdisciplinary program. An evaluation of this history was conducted to discern what lessons could be learned that may prove valuable to the establishment and operation of interdisciplinary programs elsewhere. Results: The 31-year history of OSU’s environmental science graduate program can be described as occurring in six evolutionary stages-from the circumstances that created the opportunity for its establishment as a program located in the graduate college, through slow growth, rapid expansion and maturation, uncertainty and institutional change, retrenchment and revitalization, and finally, relocation within the college of arts and sciences. Each new stage was triggered primarily by decisions of university administration and to a lesser extent by a change in program leadership. Conclusion: The lessons learned from our analysis of this history suggests that the success of interdisciplinary programs hinges on energetic, dedicated and risk-taking program directors; political and financial support from higher administration; support of affiliated faculty; cooperation with, or at least tolerance from, traditional departments; and creation of a sense of community and shared purpose among faculty, students, alumni, employers and donors.

American Journal of Environmental Sciences
Volume 5 No. 2, 2009, 130-136


Submitted On: 13 August 2008 Published On: 30 April 2009

How to Cite: Focht, W. & Henderson, T. (2009). Evolution of a Graduate Environmental Science Program. American Journal of Environmental Sciences, 5(2), 130-136.

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  • Environmental science
  • interdisciplinary programs
  • program history