New Graduate Program Builds Interdisciplinary Education with Sustainability Focus

Monday, April 26 2010

MOSCOW, Idaho – The University of Idaho launched a new Professional Science Master’s program in Natural Resources and Environmental Science on Monday.

The PSM is offered as part of the university’s master’s degree in Interdisciplinary Studies, and is one of a select few in the nation that specializes in natural resources, environmental science and water resources.

The PSM is unique in its approach, combining advanced science and math skills with training in areas like project management, communications, ethics and leadership. These broad-based practical skills will allow graduates to move seamlessly into professional careers in business and industry.

“Our market research shows that this is the kind of degree that will be highly attractive to businesses and industries associate with the environmental sciences,” said Stephen Mulkey, director of the university's Environmental Science Program. “These fields are growing at a healthy rate.”

The PSM is designed for completion in 18 months, which will likely appeal to working professionals looking to build marketable skills in a short amount of time.

Students will enroll in one of nine program tracks related to topics like sustainability science, fire ecology, water resources management and climate change. In addition to this focused science curriculum, students will take a series of transferable skills courses, and complete both an internship and research project to gain hands-on experience applying what they have learned.

The interdisciplinary focus of the PSM prepares graduates to address complex real-world problems of the 21st century, especially those related to sustainability science. Sustainability’s triple bottom line – environment, economics and social equity – cannot be adequately addressed through one discipline, say the PSM’s creators.

“Sustainability science is a concept whose time has come. This professional training program is an investment in our future,” said Mulkey.

The strength of the interdisciplinary approach lies in its ability to synthesize broad perspectives, knowledge and skills to create a comprehensive picture of real-world issues. The University of Idaho currently supports five interdisciplinary programs – environmental science, bioinformatics, neuroscience, water resources and bioregional planning – along with a Sustainability Center that works closely with environmental science and other departments to build sustainability into the university’s curriculum, operations and culture.

The collaborative nature of interdisciplinary programs like the PSM makes them especially relevant when budgets are tight.

“Particularly when it comes to making the most of faculty and resources, the interdisciplinary approach allows us to generate the kind of critical mass we need to compete with larger institutions,” said Margrit von Braun, dean of the College of Graduate Studies.

With environmental issues becoming increasingly complex, demand for graduates who can assimilate fragmented information into a coherent conversation will likely increase as well. In this way, the PSM is helping the University of Idaho meet the needs of the future.

For more information about the PSM, visit or contact Stephanie Thomas in the College of Graduate Studies at (208) 885-4723 or
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About the University of Idaho
Founded in 1889, the University of Idaho is the state’s flagship higher-education institution and its principal graduate education and research university, bringing insight and innovation to the state, the nation and the world. University researchers attract nearly $100 million in research grants and contracts each year; the University of Idaho is the only institution in the state to earn the prestigious Carnegie Foundation ranking for high research activity. The university’s student population includes first-generation college students and ethnically diverse scholars. Offering more than 130 degree options in 10 colleges, the university combines the strengths of a large university with the intimacy of small learning communities. The university is home to the Vandals, the 2009 Roady’s Humanitarian Bowl champions. For information, visit

About the University of Idaho
The University of Idaho helps students to succeed and become leaders. Its land-grant mission furthers innovative scholarly and creative research to grow Idaho's economy and serve a statewide community. From its main campus in Moscow, Idaho, to 70 research and academic locations statewide, U-Idaho emphasizes real-world application as part of its student experience. U-Idaho combines the strength of a large university with the intimacy of small learning communities. It is home to the Vandals. For information, visit