The Hard Work of Real Change: Welcome to our first cohort of students!

Posted on Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Blog Post

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This year marks lots of new growth for the Institute, and for our students.

We are at an important juncture in history. The decisions we make as individuals, business leaders, politicians and organizations will determine the fate of our planet for generations. Although we have long recognized that the solutions must be as multifaceted as the challenges, we have struggled as a society to adopt policies that effectively address environmental challenges.

Next week, we welcome our first class of students in the Master’s in Environmental Sustainability. The program has an explicit goal of helping students gain the knowledge and develop the skills needed to make a real contribution to transforming our future into an environmentally sustainable, prosperous and just one.

I’m very proud to be part of a program, and an Institute, that is rising to meet environmental challenges in a pragmatic, interdisciplinary way. One of the things that has repeatedly struck me over my career is how interwoven environmental issues are. Climate change is as much about energy and getting the prices right as it is about poverty and the global economy. Biodiversity is not only about the richness of life, but is the very foundation of human society.

Building from the varied experience of our faculty, we have developed a program that focuses on these interconnections and emphasizes finding effective, evidence-based solutions.

Over the course of the Master’s program, students will progress through 3 levels. The first will build foundational knowledge in key areas – economics, science, law and policy. The second will integrate that knowledge by applying it to the climate change challenge, and learning how to make recommendations and decisions based on credible evidence. Third, students will have an opportunity to apply this knowledge experientially by working on actual problems with community partners.

The experience will undoubtedly be intense and the work demanding, but we also hope it will be fun, enriching, practical, and ultimately lead students to chart their course on the path to a sustainable future.

I look forward to learning and growing with our students, and our community -on and off campus- throughout the program

Nathalie Chalifour is the Director of Graduate Studies at the Institute of the Environment. Reach her on Twitter or send her an email at

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