Environmental Arts and Humanities M.A. students are required to complete a minimum of 56 credit hours for graduation. The Environmental Arts and Humanities Foundation and Core classes will provide students with a common background in environmental arts and humanities and will encourage the formation of a collaborative academic community. The other coursework (Graduate Area of ConcentrationElectives, and Engagement) will allow students to shape a program that serves their academic and professional goals. For more information about requirements, download the EAH Graduate Student Guide. 

Graduate Areas of Concentration 

Graduate Areas of Concentration provides students with in-depth understandings and skills in one of three areas: 1) Environmental Imagination, 2) Environmental Action, and 3) Environmental Thinking. Students are required to select one Graduate area of concentration and complete a minimum of twelve credits in that area. The learning goals for each Graduate area of concentration and the related coursework are described below. 

Area of Concentration: Environmental Imagination

The primary learning goal is to empower students’ creative imagination with a set of understandings and skills that will help them envision and build the new cultural mores and institutions that a changing world requires.  These include:

  • Arts and the environment. Given that the arts are a powerful expression of cultural values and worldviews, what does the story of art tell us about the rich array of cultural understandings of the natural world?  How can the arts invite new ways of thinking about the fundamental questions of humanity: What is the world? Who are we, we humans? And how ought we to live?  How can the arts encourage a public discourse about what is of lasting value?
  • Communicating about the environment and environmental science.  What are honest and effective ways to communicate scientific information to the general public?  How are various media most effectively employed to inform civic discourse?  How can scientists and communicators work most effectively together?
  • Creative writing about the environment.  How has writing about nature changed over time, and how has it changed and challenged cultural ways of perceiving nature?  How can one write powerfully in the variety of forms of the nature essay, poem, and story? What is the necessary new literature of resilience and renewal? How can literature imagine the future?
  • Moral imagination.  What can we learn from imagining ourselves in another’s place? What is the role of moral imagination in fostering empathy and compassion?  How can moral imagination evolve and grow in art and literature? How do we engage in dialogue in situations of moral ambiguity, contested values, and diverse points of view? 
Area of Concentration: Environmental Action 

The primary learning goal is to empower students with understanding and skills that will make them effective advisors and leaders of environmental action.  These include:

  • Cultural diversity and environmental justice. How do people from various histories and cultures understand their relation to the natural world? How should principles of justice, equity, and human rights shape environmental decisions? How can decisions be made collaboratively, inclusively, and fairly across cultural differences? How can a diversity of ideas and perspectives build community resilience?
  • The history and structure of cultural change.  How do paradigmatic and structural changes occur? How can that knowledge inform strategies for building movements and creating cultural change?  What are the roles of science, art, music, religion, popular media, etc. in social change?
  • Community leadership. What is a good life? What is a resilient community? How can emerging ideas about participatory democracy shape progress toward shared goals? What are the elements of effective leadership? What are the most effective means to reach democratic decisions in a community setting? 
Area of Concentration: Environmental Thinking 

The primary learning goal is to empower students with strong reasoning skills that will enable them to make useful contributions to a complicated, multi-valued environmental discourse. These skills include:

  • Practical moral reasoning about facts and values. How does one formulate reasoned arguments about moral issues? What are the processes of deliberative choice by which we use facts and values to reach wise decisions?
  • Critical thinking about environmental issues. How does one evaluate competing arguments in society’s “collaborative effort in search of truth” in a context where public discourse about environmental issues is complicated, noisy, well-funded, highly contentious, and sometimes violent? How does one bring sound arguments and cogent, compelling reasons to the marketplace of ideas?
  • Religious and spiritual traditions and environmental issues. How do humanity’s widely varied worldviews frame environmental issues and obligations? How do they shape public discourse?
  • Conceptual analysis of complex problems.  What are useful and systematic approaches to problems that are multi-disciplinary, multi-valued, and laced with uncertainty? 


Students will work with their major professor and committee to select electives that inform students’ Graduate areas of concentration and meet their learning, research, and career goals. Because the degree is designed to empower students to work effectively with emerging, contemporary issues, students may, with the approval of their committee, choose electives from any academic unit at OSU. Suggested topic areas include, but are not limited to, land use, climate change, biodiversity, art and the environment, democracy and the environment, food and agriculture, consumerism and marketing, and green technologies. 

Students are especially encouraged to use their elective credits to pursue an OSU graduate certificate that will help them meet their academic and career goals. Examples of possible graduate certificates are the Certificate in Water Conflict Management and Transformation, Marine Resource Management Graduate Certificate, Graduate Certificate in College and University TeachingFisheries or Wildlife Management Graduate Certificate, or the Graduate Certificate in Sustainable Natural Resources (online). A list of certificate programs is available here. Students may also fulfill their elective credits by participating in the Natural Resources Leadership Academy.


Engagement credits allow students, with the guidance of their committee, to pursue their area of interest in depth and to create a final thesis or project that combines practical experience and scholarly insight. At its best, the student’s Engagement work will provide a new, useful way to address an urgent environmental challenge.

Students are required to develop a plan for their Engagement credits with their committee by the end of Year One. The plan must bring the Engaged Fieldwork and the Thesis/Project into a well-considered and fruitful synergy. Engagement credits can be on any topic or subject pertaining to Environmental Arts and Humanities, as agreed upon by the student’s committee. There are no limitations or preferences for a particular theoretical or methodological approach, as long as the approaches are within the purview of Environmental Arts and Humanities. 

Engagement credits are of two kinds:  

  • Work and Field Experience: Fieldwork credits give students hands-on experience in their field of inquiry. Fieldwork may be completed in the US or internationally and may include, but is not limited to, internships, research, collaboration with scientists and/or humanities scholars, and applied projects. 
  • Thesis or Project: Students may choose to complete either a thesis or a project. The student’s work will be overseen by her or his major professor—graduate faculty with significant expertise in the area of the student’s thesis or project topic.  Other committee members’ roles will be determined by the committee as a whole on a case-by-case basis. For example, if a student chooses the thesis option, a committee member might oversee one essay while the major professor oversees the other essay and the framing introduction. By the end of Year One students will have submitted a written Thesis or Project Proposal to their committee for feedback and they will have agreed on the structure of the thesis or project. 

The following examples of Engagement Credits are provided to illustrate how Fieldwork and Thesis/Project credits can work together to strengthen a student’s program of study:

  • Environmental Imagination Area of Concentration: A student might, for example, be interested in climate change and forest fires. After Year One, the student completes seven Fieldwork credits doing summer fieldwork with a science graduate student who is studying the effects of forest fires on the carbon-storing capacity of ponderosa pinelands.  Dry, sooty work, indeed, but the campfire conversations are inspiring and the work provides material for the student’s scholarly interests. After the fieldwork, the student completes seven Thesis credits and writes an article for a popular magazine such as Discover, a personal essay for publication, and the “broader impacts” portion of the next grant proposal.
  • Environmental Action Area of Concentration: A student might, for example, be interested in justice issues related to the epidemiology of climate change. At the end of Year One, the student completes three Project credits while studying theories of justice and, with a research scientist at OSU, building expertise on the effects of disease spread due to a warming planet. Then, during the Fall term of Year Two, the student registers for nine Fieldwork credits and does a residency in Florida and Louisiana. After the residency, the student registers for two more Project credits and creates an online tool that provides local policy-makers and advocates with easily accessed data and justice-based considerations useful for decisions about both climate change mitigation and adaptation projects.
  • Environmental Thinking Area of Concentration: A student might, for example, be interested in the public discourse about building energy infrastructure in developing nations. In the Fall term of Year Two, the student registers for nine Fieldwork credits and travels to three Liberian communities that are engaged in heated debates about the development of the country’s energy infrastructure. The student goes to community meetings; spends time in the field with anthropologists; talks with community members, governmental, and non-governmental organization; and reads widely about energy.  When the student returns, they register for five Project credits and designs and produces informational pamphlets, workshops, and/or films that analyze energy infrastructure arguments, achieving a moral and practical clarity that had eluded policy makers and non-profit leaders.

Thesis and Project Options   

All students will be required to make a final thesis or project presentation and defend the work to the committee, as determined by the student’s committee. Students must submit a draft of their thesis or project to their committee for review six weeks prior to their presentation and oral examination.

Successful theses and projects will:

  • Make a relevant, significant, and novel contribution to an environmental issue of importance to the future.
  • Create synergies between the humanities and environmental sciences.
  • Model excellent work at the junction of the environmental arts, humanities, and sciences.
  • Illustrate an in-depth understanding of a specific issue, topic, or question.
  • Demonstrate an understanding of diverse cultural approaches.
  • Illustrate an awareness of the theoretical issues and arguments raised and discussed in the literature on the subject.
  • Be equivalent in content, sophistication, and expertise to a publishable paper in a respected journal, popular press, or relevant outlet.


The overall goal of the MA in Environmental Arts and Humanities is to provide students with a degree program about the cultural, moral, historical, spiritual, creative, and communication dimensions of environmental issues. The program builds upon, and adds to, the collaborative nature of faculty and student engagement across several disciplines at OSU. Students will graduate prepared for good, wise work in such positions as environmental NGOs, government and land agencies, advocacy groups, corporations, green business, journalism, conservation and stewardship, formal and informal education, and other environmental positions that require strong, creative communication and reasoning skill sets and humanistic understanding.

With this programmatic goal in mind, the Environmental Arts and Humanities program has adopted five graduate learning outcomes.

  1. Conduct research or produce some other form of creative work.   
  2. Demonstrate mastery of subject material.   
  3. Conduct scholarly or professional activities in an ethical manner.  
  4. Demonstrate a deep understanding of the diverse cultural, moral, historical, aesthetic, and spiritual dimensions of environmental decisions.
  5. Demonstrate a deep understanding in one of three Areas of Concentrations: environmental imagination, environmental action, environmental leadership.


Environmental Arts and Humanities Graduate Student Guide 

For a detailed overview of the program, download the EAH Graduate Student Guide