Identifying policy solutions to environmental challenges requires a command of social sciences, alongside topical knowledge and understanding of relevant policy processes. Duke's UPEP PhD (University Program in Environmental Policy) 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.
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. Graduates are well prepared for academic positions in varied departments as well as professional schools (including all schools of environment and of public policy), domestic and international public agencies, environmental organizations, research institutes, and policy consulting firms.
Our students and faculty conduct world-class research, in domestic and international contexts, on topics including climate change, air quality, water quality, biodiversity conservation, community resource management, ecosystem services, energy, environmental health, fisheries, corporate sustainability, forest management, poverty and development. We have close affiliations with the Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions and the Duke Global Health Initiative.
UPEP builds on a long history of Duke University engagement with environmental policy issues. The predecessors of the Nicholas School—the School of Forestry, Marine Lab, and 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.
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