Environment and Sustainability

Scope and Objectives

The mission of the UCLA Institute of the Environment and Sustainability (IoES) is to advance cross-disciplinary research, teaching, and public service on matters of critical importance to the planet and the campus community. The environment is defined broadly to include the interrelated issues of global climate change, loss of biological diversity, and threats to human health and well-being from the use and misuse of natural resources, applying all the tools of scientific and policy analysis as well as moral and aesthetic values to the work. The environment is a crucial component of sustainability, which is defined as the simultaneous consideration of environmental, economic, and social concerns. Los Angeles itself is a vital asset to this mission. As an international mega-city located in one of the world’s most biologically diverse regions, Los Angeles is a magnet for scholars from around the world who are facing similar issues of pollution, access to potable water, demand for energy, fragmentation of habitat, and the need to restore ecological function to sprawling urban settlements in a manner that supports economic growth and that is socially just and equitable.

The IoES offers creative, multidisciplinary academic programs and courses that address the full complexity of current environmental problems and sustainable solutions. The Bachelor of Science degree in Environmental Science is an innovative dual-component degree program for students seeking a challenging and invigorating science curriculum. The first component, the Environmental Science major, provides students with disciplinary breadth in several areas important to environmental science. The second component, a minor or concentration in one of seven environmental science areas, provides students with focused disciplinary depth in an area of their choosing. The minor in Environmental Systems and Society is designed for students who wish to gain a deeper understanding of the relationships between environmental science and associated social and political issues.

The IoES also sponsors the Environment M1A, M1B, M1CW and Clusters M1A, M1B, M1CW titled Food: Lens for Environment and Sustainability. The cluster format is a series of three integrated freshman team-taught courses over the fall, winter, and spring quarters. The fall and winter quarter courses consist of lectures and discussions. The spring quarter consists of seminars and activities in which students explore specialized food-related environmental and sustainability topics such as sustainable agriculture, food culture and justice, and strategies for feeding the growing human population.

At the graduate level, the IoES offers two degree programs and a graduate certificate. The first program is the Environmental Science and Engineering (DEnv) professional doctorate program that was founded in 1973 by Nobel laureate Dr. Willard Libby, who perceived a need to train environmental scientists, engineers, and policymakers in a more interdisciplinary manner than is afforded by traditional PhD programs. The program is designed with an appropriate balance of breadth and specific skills, based on a strong master’s-level foundation in a science or engineering discipline. The curriculum consists of formal coursework across a full spectrum of relevant physical, biological, social, and engineering disciplines, as well as interdisciplinary research training and an off-campus residency where students complete their dissertation embedded in an agency, business, or non-profit organization. UCLA remains unique in the country in awarding the Doctor of Environmental Science and Engineering degree.

The second program is the Environment and Sustainability PhD program that was launched in 2018. The program equips students with diverse perspectives to develop profound new ideas, knowledge and answers to the most important concerns facing people and the planet. The program provides a deep understanding of how fundamental principles of environmental science and sustainability can be applied to research and address key environmental challenges that require skills in multiple disciplines — preparing students for a range of careers in academia, as well as public and private sectors. To promote interdisciplinarity as the core of the program’s identity, each student’s program of study and dissertation research are guided by two advisors from distinct areas of research and scholarship.

The national award-winning Leaders in Sustainability graduate certificate program is free to UCLA graduate students pursuing degrees in any discipline. Companies, consumers, and governments across the world increasingly focus on making products, services, operations, and lives more sustainable. The certificate program gives students the tools to make that happen in a collaborative, action-oriented setting. By bringing together students and faculty from diverse academic fields, the program fosters cross-pollination for innovative ideas and solutions. Each graduate student takes a core sustainability class along with electives of their choosing. Working with other students, faculty and professionals, students initiate a leadership project that measurably advances sustainability. For many, this project serves as a jumping off point into their post-graduate careers and studies.