Identifying policy solutions to environmental challenges requires a command of social sciences, alongside topical knowledge and understanding of relevant policy processes. Duke's University Program in Environmental Policy (UPEP) PhD is a 5-year program for intense research training, combining disciplinary specialization − in economics or political science − with an emphasis on understanding policy settings and the precise nature of the problem we hope to solve with policy. That requires integrating multiple perspectives to frame useful applications of disciplinary rigor.

Our students and faculty conduct world-class research, in domestic and international contexts, on a wide array of topics in environmental economics, policy, and politics. Graduate placements have included academic positions in disciplinary departments, interdisciplinary units, and professional schools and professional positions in domestic and international public agencies, environmental organizations, research institutes, and consulting firms.

The UPEP PhD program is jointly administered by the Nicholas School of the Environment and the Sanford School of Public Policy. It draws on the extensive resources of both schools, as well as numerous departments and research institutes across Duke University. UPEP students work in close proximity to PhD students in other disciplines, within each School as well as across Duke. We have close affiliations with the Nicholas Institute for Energy, Environment & Sustainability and the Duke Global Health Institute.

UPEP builds on a long history of Duke University engagement with environmental policy issues. The predecessors of the Nicholas School—the School of Forestry, the Marine Lab, and the Department of Geology—were founded in the 1930s. The Sanford School of Public Policy traces its history to the formation of Duke’s Institute of Policy Sciences and Public Affairs in 1971. Both schools have offered environment-focused PhD training for many years. In 2010, UPEP was created to bring together groups engaged in social science research and training for environmental policy.