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About this Page:

Many of us share a deep sense that these next four decades represent the biggest challenge and the greatest opportunity for the global community to change the way we interact with our natural environment. There is a sustainability revolution occurring in our communities, in our schools, and in our businesses: more and more people want to step up and shoulder the responsibility of sustainable living (which is one of the reasons why sustainability masters programs are on the rise). But what happens to all this passion and energy for a greener way of life? In most cases, it is wasted because of a lack of knowledge and leadership.

Here at Bard, our Center for Environmental Policy (CEP) is leading the change. Our graduate students are passionate, energized, smart leaders who are taking their concern for our global future and getting the education and experience they need in order to forge careers in sustainability.

In this digital resource, we invite you into a crash course in sustainability principles. Through these student stories from a trip to Oaxaca, Mexico, you’ll get a glimpse of what you could learn in two weeks with Bard’s Center for Environmental Policy, and you’ll hear more about the education and skills you need to build a better and greener future.

About Bard’s Center for Environmental Policy Image

About Bard’s Center for Environmental Policy

The Bard Center for Environmental Policy's graduate programs combine an intensive course of study with practical training in preparation for environmental careers in nonprofit organizations, government, and the private sector. The programs emphasize methods of critical inquiry and provide the practical knowledge necessary to understand the legal, political, socioeconomic, cultural, and ethical forces that influence the decision-making process around our toughest environmental challenges.

Studying Sustainability through Experiential Learning

Our Emphasis on Experience for Career Success

We know that sustainable leadership is best taught through a combination of theoretical and experiential learning. Sustainable development cannot be learned in the abstract.

As part of the CEP programs, all M.S. students participate in a ten-day intensive course in January of their first year. During this faculty-led experience in Oaxaca, Mexico, students work with local NGOs to understand how food, energy and water policies affect local communities and how those policies evolve in the context of a developing country.

Our graduate students also complete high-level, extended professional internships as part of their masters program. From June to January of the second year, Bard graduate students are working for four to six months in South Africa, Geneva, Thailand, DC, New York, Texas, Alaska—wherever they find the most compelling policy work being done.

No other graduate programs in sustainability policy or education require internships at this scale.

This emphasis on experience helps our students be deeply interested in the beautiful, community-based solutions that can emerge when passion, practicality, and theory are combined.

Both Holly Kristner and Brett Landeau, graduate students with Bard’s Center for Environmental Policy, reflect on these themes in their stories from Oaxaca, Mexico.

It’s Not Just Adobe, It’s Superadobe Image
It’s Not Just Adobe, It’s Superadobe

It’s Not Just Adobe, It’s Superadobe
Written by: Holly Kistner

It’s been two weeks since I returned from the Bard CEP field course on watershed management in Oaxaca, Mexico, and the trip feels surreal now. Surrounded by snow and preoccupied by schoolwork, sometimes I catch myself daydreaming about the beautiful Sierra Sur mountains, my favorite place from our journey.

Small Business Strategies for Sustainability

Small Business Strategies for Sustainability
Written by: Brett Landau

The state of Oaxaca, Mexico might not be the first place I think of when I am considering innovative sustainability strategies, but, as the Bard CEP class of 2019 found out, it’s full of surprises. One such surprise was the Rancho Alternativo, a small business run by an indigenous family in the Sierra Sur mountains.



Download our Career Guide to Jobs in Sustainability: 
Ideas, Resources, and Opportunities for Careers with Impact



Studying Sustainability in an Interdisciplinary Way

Bard’s Unique Core Curriculum

Bard's graduate sustainability programs feature a unique, integrated first-year core curriculum. Most policy and education programs are "cafeteria style," in which students cobble together a collection of classes from a list of dozens of options over two years of residence, but this scattershot approach can waste students' time. By contrast, Bard condenses most of the academics into a carefully curated first-year core curriculum that provides all of the tools needed for professional success during the extended professional internship in the second year.

This also allows for interdisciplinary learning across our three degree programs. While our graduate students eventually specialize in either Environmental Policy, Climate Science and Policy, and Environmental Education, much of their foundational learning is shared. This approach strengthens our students’ connections with each other and allows for greater insight as each student brings his or her individual interests to the shared experience. Our small class sizes and highly engaged faculty also provide every student with the personalized tools and learning they need to succeed in a sustainability career.

The key reason we take this interdisciplinary approach to environmental issues? Because the best solutions to environmental challenges are multi-faceted and take into account the best interests of the natural world, the local community, and global social justice.

In his story from Oaxaca, graduate student Casey Hughes reflects on the what responsible, sustainable business interactions ought to look like.


International Trade and Sustainable Development: An Interdisciplinary Understanding

International Trade and Sustainable Development: An Interdisciplinary Understanding
Written by: Casey Hughes

This January, first-year Bard CEP students went to Oaxaca, Mexico for a course examining resource management, sustainable development and international trade dynamics. The activities of the trip highlighted how community dynamics and global economic drivers influence resource management and the sustainability of development.



Learn more about Bard's Graduate Programs in Sustainability by attending
one of our events!


Studying Sustainability at Every Scale

Our Emphasis on Local to Global

Thinking about global challenges while solving problems at the local level is a key part of a successful career in sustainability. Graduate students in the Center for Environmental Policy at Bard are involved in local projects in the Hudson Valley throughout their years of study, and experiences like the annual trip to Oaxaca and internships with international NGOs help provide a global perspective.

A global perspective is crucial not only because our environmental crisis is global, but because many solutions can come from taking the example of techniques pioneered in other parts of the globe and using them to tackle local challenges.

CEP graduate student, James Richmond, saw this global-local dynamic illustrated in powerful ways during his time in Oaxaca.

People standing in a mountain view
Oaxaca, Where the Local is Global

Oaxaca, Where the Local is Global
Written by: James Richmond

Mist billows up from the valley, swirling around the green mountains of San Miguel Suchixtepec. Standing by the snow-white superadobe house of Don Claudio, I see a kaleidoscope of alternating bright greens and dark greys, as the sun breaks through the clouds and then ducks behind them again.


Studying Sustainability in a Network

Building Trust and Relationships in Order to Succeed

If you’re passionate about the environment and have wondered how you can contribute or pursue a career in sustainability, you need to work within the context of a network. Finding a career in the sustainability space requires that each student build a strong professional network. This network starts with the close connections formed with fellow students and faculty and alums. It grows with the constant flow of sustainability professionals who visit Bard, the trips to learn from other communities, and the opportunity to work face-to-face with organizations in our extended professional internships.

Because of this emphasis on network building, Bard’s graduate students have remarkably strong success in the job market and in sustainability careers. One of our recent studies showed that over 92% of Bard M.S. graduates are working in jobs with a social or environmental mission, or are pursuing further graduate study. In a typical year, close to 40% of students that graduate from Bard CEP are already employed, primarily as a result of job offers arising from the professional internship.

After the trip to Oaxaca, Casey Hughes and Jake Duncan, students in the Bard Center for Environmental Policy, both reflected on the crucial importance of building a sense of community in order to meet environmental goals.

Community Conservation in Oaxaca: San Pablo Etla and La Mesita

Community Conservation in Oaxaca: San Pablo Etla and La Mesita
Written by: Casey Hughes

What do coastal resort towns and mountainous coffee farms have in common with peri-urban Oaxaca? Other than places visited by Bard CEP during our time in Mexico this January, they are home to communities that recognize the value of nature and natural spaces and are working at the local level to preserve them.

Lessons on Sustainability from Indigenous Communities

Lessons on Sustainability from Indigenous Communities
Written by: Jake Duncan

As a Westerner, when I ask myself what marginalized remote indigenous communities can do when facing severe water shortages and little in the way of modern technological resources, I am sometimes at a loss. Much to my surprise and pleasure, Bard CEP’s visit to the community of San Juan Cieneguilla in San Andrés Ixtlahuaca (outside Oaxaca, Mexico) showed me just how resourceful and effective such a community can be at addressing its own issues.



Join us for a C2C Fellows weekend at Bard!

The C2C Fellows Network at the Bard Center for Environmental Policy is a national program for undergraduates and recent graduates aspiring to leadership positions in sustainable policy, politics and business. C2C offers intensive skills-based weekend workshops to young people from across the country. Graduates of these workshops join a national network with access to continuing educational and professional opportunities. C2C Fellows are leaders whose vision is to change the world. Our mission is to accelerate their life’s work.


Understanding the 3 Approaches to Sustainable Learning

Degrees in Environmental Policy, Climate Science and Policy, and Environmental Education

Bard’s Center for Environmental Policy master’s programs have many crucial features in common. These include:

  • Integrated, interdisciplinary curriculum
  • Unmatched interaction with exceptional faculty
  • High-level, extended professional internship
  • Global and Local engagement, including a Peace Corps option
  • Research opportunities designed to meet student interests
  • Strong career development, mentoring and placement
  • One-year residency option

However, students do get to hone in on an area of particular strength and interest by choosing between a degree in Environmental Policy, Climate Science and Policy, or Environmental Education.

Some of our students’ stories helpfully illustrate the differences between these programs.

Masters in Environmental Policy

This program links natural ecosystems and their functioning to the impact of socioeconomic activities, and to the political, institutional, and legislative responses that address environmental problems. For individuals who want to “change the rules,” this program’s emphasis gives students the knowledge they need to fight bad laws, regulations, and policies set by government and businesses, and replace them with good ones.

Our graduate students with a masters in Environmental Policy are equipped to craft policy and interface between legislative and institutional influences and changing environmental conditions that demand a thoughtful response.

Suzanne Flaum’s experiences in Oaxaca illustrate how government involvement can help or hurt environmental objectives.

People in the forest looking for direction
Creative Conservation in Huatulco

Creative Conservation in Huatulco
Written by: Suzanne Flaum

This January, Bard CEP students visited the state of Oaxaca, Mexico to study watershed management and sustainable development. While traveling to the Pacific coast, we met with Omar Gabriel Gordillo Solís, a Director at the National Commission on Protected Natural Areas (CONANP).


Masters in Climate Science and Policy

This climate and science focused degree covers the interplay between climate systems, ecosystems, and agricultural systems on the one hand and solutions on the other, training future policy leaders to guide efforts in greenhouse gas mitigation and adaptation. The curriculum incorporates science, economics, policy, law, and tools of analysis.

This course of study equips aspiring environmentalists with the analytical, communication,

and problem-solving skills they need to connect core scientific principles to socioeconomic impacts, infrastructure investment, and political and legislative responses to global climate change.

Bard’s Center for Environmental Policy graduate student, Lindsey Drew displays this kind of thinking at work as she reflects on the scientific and environmental impacts of green practices in Oaxaca, Mexico.

Watershed Management through Ecosystem Services

Watershed Management through Ecosystem Services
Written by: Lindsey Drew

This past January, I and my fellow Bard CEP classmates went on a two week research trip to Oaxaca, Mexico. During our time in the Sierra Sur region of Oaxaca, we visited the town San Miguel Suchixtepec, where we spent time at a local public school with a high regard for environmental stewardship.


Masters in Environmental Education

The Bard M.Ed. in Environmental Education program prepares educators to create an informed and engaged citizenry supporting progress towards a just, prosperous, and sustainable future.

The future needs people who can integrate teaching and communication skills with passion and knowledge of environmental science. The purpose of this degree is to prepare sustainability leaders to pursue successful, high-impact careers in private schools, NGO’s, government land management agencies, private land conservation organizations, museums, environmental education centers, and consulting firms.

We all know that education, arming people with knowledge about the realities of environmental threats and showing them sustainable practices, is a crucial part of our efforts to change the world. Our graduate students with a master’s in Environmental Education can fill these crucial roles, for both the old and the young.

Returning from Oaxaca, Allie Gumas reflects powerfully on what an education in sustainability can mean for young students, and how much knowledge about natural processes is missing from the average American’s experience of life.


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Toilet Talk

Toilet Talk
Written by: Allie Gumas

During the Bard CEP Oaxaca course trip I learned about a new technology that I’ve been fixated on since: dry toilets! I’ve always specialized in waste management, but I’ve never had much exposure to human waste management.

Closing thoughts Image

Closing Thoughts

Successful sustainability efforts will require all of us to recommit our energy and efforts to global transformation. If you are considering a career in sustainability or know you want to learn more about how to leave the earth greener and better than you found it, Bard’s Center for Environmental Policy is leading the change.

Through theoretical and experiential learning, through a strong interdisciplinary curriculum, through an emphasis on local and global efforts, and through strong network-building relationships, Bard is educating the leaders of tomorrow.