Who May Apply

To be accepted into the emphasis, applicants must demonstrate that:

  • They are a UCSB PhD student currently enrolled in a participating
    department or program
  • They have a strong interest in and commitment to interdisciplinary
    environmental studies and sciences
  • Their participation in the emphasis will advance their intellectual
    development, research agendas, and career goals
  • They have full support of their dissertation chair or appropriate
    graduate advisor
  • They are well-situated to assume the additional workload and
    responsibilities of the emphasis

How to Apply

To apply, submit the following materials, as a single PDF, to the IPEES program coordinator:

  1. A cover sheet listing the following information: your full name, department, the number of years you have completed in your current program, and your status in that program (how much coursework remains, whether you have advanced to candidacy, etc.)
  2. A letter of application describing: your proposed program of doctoral study and research at UCSB, includingyour dissertation topic; a list of your proposed IPEES electives and an explanation of how they support your doctoral study; your assessment of how participating in the lnterdepartmental PhD Emphasis in Environment and Society will advance your intellectual development, research agendas, and career goals; and, your commitment to interdisciplinary environmental studies and sciences.
  3. A curriculum vitae
  4. A letter of support from your dissertation committee chair, or appropriate substitute if you do not yet have a chair, endorsing your application and indicating that the recommender understands the requirements of the emphasis. This part of the application can be sent directly from the chair or substitute to the program coordinator

We will be in contact upon receipt of your application. Prospective applicants may direct their questions to the program coordinator.

Submit Your Application


  1. Core Seminar: All students in the emphasis must register for the Core Seminar (ENV S 200), The seminar is offered each winter quarter. The purpose of the seminar is to bring together graduate students at UCSB who share an ¡nterest in research at the intersection of environment and society. Students who are considering applying to emphasis are encouraged to enroll in the Core Seminar or attend sessions.
  2. Course Electives: All students in the emphasis must take three elective courses in departments and disciplines other than their own. The purpose of the electives is to enable students to develop expertise in an area that complements their disciplinary training. Electives should be selected strategically and with careful planning. Students should choose electives in consultation with the emphasis program director and the outside member of their dissertation committee.
  3. Outside Member on Dissertation Committee: All students in the emphasis must have one outside member on their dissertation committees, selected from the list of faculty participating in the emphasis.
  4. IPEES Symposium: All students must present at least once in the annual IPEES Symposium, where beginning and continuing students present their research. All students in the emphasis are strongly encouraged to participate in and attend the IPEES Symposium throughout their time at UCSB.
  5. lnterdisciplinarity: All students must include some aspect of interdisciplinary environmental studies as a substantial component of their dissertations. There are many ways to fulfillthis final requirement, and students will do so with the guidance of their outside committee members.

Please note: ln addition to the emphasis requirements, students must satisfy all requirements in their home departments.


All students in the emphasis must take three elective courses in departments other than their own. The purpose of the electives requirement is to enable students to develop expertise in an area that complements their disciplinary training.

Choosing Electives

Students should tailor their electives to their interests and needs. The following three suggestions may be useful in guiding students’ choice of electives:

  1. Subject Area Outside Home Discipline: lt may provide an opportunity for a student to focus on a particular subject area outside his or her home discipline but related to his or her research. An example would be a student studying climate justice in the Sociology Department who wishes to develop a more in- depth understanding of climate science.
  2. Methodological Expertise: The elective requirement may enable a student to develop an area of methodological expertise outside his or her home discipline.  An example would be an ecology student who wishes to develop skills in historical research for use in restoration work.
  3. Basic Environmental Knowledge: A student with little previous training in this area may use the elective requirement to develop a broad foundation of basic environmental knowledge. An example of this final case is a student with a strong background in political science, whose prior training focused on immigration but who is moving toward environmental research for the first time at the doctoral level.

Approving Electives

Electives can be selected from course offerings in any department or program on campus and must include at least two graduate-level courses (2.0+ units). The electives a student chooses must be consistent with, and complement or supplement their area of study. Students should choose electives in consultation with the emphasis program director and the outside member of their dissertation committee. To fulfill the electives requirement of IPEES, students must submit an "Electives Petition" to the program coordinator and receive approval from the program director. The petition must include the course names and numbers, and must include a rationale for taking these electives. 

Electives Petition

A Sampling of IPEES Relevant Graduate Electives

A sampling of IPEES relevant courses by quarter and by year is available to view. Students are not required to choose electives from these lists, but should consult with the program director or their outside committee member when choosing electives. 

Sampling of IPEES Relevant Courses


To recieve credit for completing the emphasis, students must:

  1. Register the emphasis with the Graduate Division,
  2. Fulfill all emphasis requirements,
  3. Submit an IPEES narrative to the program director, and
  4. Complete an Environment and Society PhD Emphasis Requirements Sheet.

Register PhD Emphasis with Graduate Division

After acceptance in the emphasis and completion of the Core Seminar (ENV S 200), students must submit a Change of Degree Status Petition to the Graduate Division. By registering the PhD emphasis with the Graduate Division it becomes part of the student’s permanent record. Students will need to contact the emphasis’ program director and obtain a signature.

Change of Degree Status Petition 

Please note: This petition may be completed at any time. The student does not need to have completed all of the emphasis requirements before filing. Early filing is encouraged!

IPEES Narrative on Interdisciplinarity

After completing all emphasis requirements, students must submit a brief narrative explaining how an aspect of interdisciplinary environmental studies” is a substantial component of their dissertation. In their narrative, students must also indicate how the three elective courses and their outside advisor contributed to this “substantial component." Students must submit their narrative along with a completed PhD Emphasis Requirements sheet (see below) to the program director, program coordinator, and their outside committee member. 

IPEES Narrative Sheet

PhD Emphasis Requirements Sheet

Submit a completed PhD Emphasis worksheet along with the IPEES narrative to IPEES. Upon review, students will receive the program director's signature indicating fulfillment of IPEES requirements and official completion of the emphasis. The program coordinator will submit the PhD Emphasis Requirements Sheet to the Graduate Division and send the student a scanned copy of the requirements sheet for their records.

PhD Emphasis Requirements Sheet