What are the best grad schools that mix community development and environmental studies?
July 9, 2008 4:19 PM   Subscribe

What are the best graduate schools for environmental planning, with a focus on community involvement? I am specifically interested in community involvement in watershed health, and sustainable stormwater issues.

I will be going into my senior year at Portland State University in the fall, and I'm starting my graduate school search. I am a Community Development major, and a Sustainable Urban Development minor. PSU has a strong Urban Planning graduate program, and they do offer an environmental emphasis, but I would like to consider other options as well. As stated before, my main interest is community involvement in watershed health and planning. I became interested in watershed health and sustainable stormwater through my own research, and would like to mix this area with my community development work. Does anyone know a school that would be a good candidate for this? So far I have found the "Environment and Community" program at Humboldt State (Which is a Master of Arts in Social Science), and the Environmental Science program at SUNY-ESF (which has an emphasis titled "Environmental Communication and Participatory Processes"). Are these the two best options? Do you know of any others that would be a good fit? Thanks!
posted by Delfena to Education (10 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Cornell has a pretty great Department of Natural Resources.
posted by tjenks at 4:29 PM on July 9, 2008

I'd suggest looking at SCARP up at UBC.
posted by Forktine at 4:41 PM on July 9, 2008

University of Wisconsin has the Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies. They offer a very applied MS in Water Resouce Management.
posted by sulaine at 4:41 PM on July 9, 2008

Well, you beat me to it, Delfena -- I was going to suggest SUNY ESF. It's a great program.
posted by kate blank at 5:15 PM on July 9, 2008

I don't have a school suggestion, but I thought I might mention that when working on actual building projects, stormwater issues are typically handled by the civil engineer and approved by the engineering division of whatever building department. But that's getting into specifying filters and calculating flow rates and all that--is that what you want to get into, or are you looking for the more big-picture type thing where you're helping to determine what the standards are for BMPs in the first place? If you're looking to work with the actual nitty-gritty details of how stormwater is managed in particular projects, you might be more successful going for an engineering degree rather than planning.
posted by LionIndex at 5:34 PM on July 9, 2008

Oh, and I loved Harvard's program (based at Harvard Forest in rural Mass) but they're not accepting masters students for the 08-09 year. It's a very small program; 1-4 students per year, and it's great for smart, self-directed students.

(And, being a Harvard program, it's very well funded, as you might imagine.)
posted by kate blank at 5:41 PM on July 9, 2008

Seconding Cornell. I was in historic preservation in the City and Regional Planning Dept and I know there are strong community development goals in that dept. and some excellent land use/environmental people there too. The thing about Cornell is that graduate students are actually in the Graduate School and not any particular dept. so regardless of which program you might choose there, you have the ability to take classes all over campus and do a lot of tailoring to your interests.
posted by stefnet at 6:24 PM on July 9, 2008

Oops... Here's a link for you.
posted by stefnet at 6:26 PM on July 9, 2008

UC Berkeley's Masters in Environmental Planning program is exactly what you are looking for. The guy who wrote Portland Metro's green streets handbook (about designing stormwater-friendly streets) went through that program, and from what I heard, he basically figured that stuff out himself from scratch. Since then, a solid contingent of students have followed in his footsteps and are working on urban creeks or watersheds by serving as the person who can speak the language of urban designers and engineers. For example, one graduate is now working on a stormwater plan for the City of San Francisco that would reconceive of the city -- not as a network of underground pipes to the Bay -- but as a patchwork of above-ground watersheds. She's doing community-based watershed planning for an urban area.

Also, that program has two great teachers who specialize in community participation and the social meanings that people find in places. And since the entire program is closely tied to the city planning program, there are more people one floor down in the same building. I'll admit, they don't have the across-the-board community development cred that -- is it UCLA? does -- but the few people they have on this topic are so great that I think most people get what they need.

It's definitely intense; you get thrown in over your head in the beginning, so you have to be prepared for that, and since it's a fast two years, you have to have a clear idea of what you want to do to make it work. But for motivated and focused people, it's perfect. Plus, if you're going to build a set of professional contacts, doing it in a place like San Francisco, where jobs abound, is a good idea. Sorry if I'm raving too much, and feel free to mefi-mail me if you want more information.
posted by salvia at 6:40 PM on July 9, 2008 [1 favorite]

Thank you everyone! I'll be looking into all of your suggestions. Oh, and to answer LionIndex, I'm more interested in the educational aspects of sustainable stormwater management (which I guess I should have mentioned). I like talking about it to the community, and educating people about the issues. In the fall I am starting a student position as a liason between BES' Community Watershed Stewardship program and PSU's Community Development program. So I guess this is the kind of area I want to continue in. Thanks again.. :)
posted by Delfena at 7:24 PM on July 9, 2008

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