Environmental Studies PhD Program

The Engaged Scholar Environmental Studies PhD NewsletterOur doctoral program is founded on the conviction that theory and practice go hand-in-hand and that our most essential research questions arise from integrating professional experiences and scholarship. You’ll see evidence of this by clicking on our doctoral newsletter, The Engaged Scholar.

Academic community

Join multidisciplinary teams consisting of ecologists, historians, geologists, economists,  artists, writers, philosophers, policy makers, environmental advocates, and educators. Our faculty and students will invite you to integrate these types of disciplines into research that inspires you.

We choose to be an Environmental Studies Department because we want interdisciplinary thinking to be at the core of our identity. Engage in coursework and seminars with a small group of students whose experience and wide-ranging interests will augment your own.

Research diversity

Specialize in the research area for which you have a passion and apply the theories and methods best suited to your research interests. Leverage our explicitly interdisciplinary curriculum and our mission to integrate science, policy, humanities, education, and service. This knowledge will position you to pursue sustainable solutions to pressing local, national and international environmental challenges.

A program structure that works for you

Engage your doctoral studies in a program designed for working professionals. Participate in a low-residency model combining intensive sessions on campus with independent research and collaborative communication online, as well as service learning that makes your research relevant to the broader society.

Scholarship, practice, and service

Study with faculty members who bridge disciplinary and methodological boundaries, who model the integration of scholarship and practice, who emphasize the role of service, and who are recognized locally, nationally, and internationally.

Environmental Studies Dept. Faculty and Staff

Environmental Studies Dept. Faculty and Staff

What students love

(ES PhD Student Feedback, 2014-2016)

  • “We LOVE our faculty and staff!!! We know you work hard for us and we feel the love.
  • Antioch students, faculty and staff are overwhelmingly positive and supportive. Even when work is overwhelming, students love coming to this place.
  • The responsiveness of the ES Department to any student concerns.
  • We appreciate the faculty’s open door policy.
  • The course structure is great.
  • The addition of new faculty has been wonderful.
  • Advisors are very supportive, accessible and approachable!
  • The range of research interests we can pursue under the Environmental Studies umbrella is great.
  • The encouraging research atmosphere created by ES faculty and fellow students.
  • We love the cohort model!
  • We love cross-cohort interaction!
  • We value the summer intensive- especially the time we get to bond with our cohort.
  • There is a strong feeling that Antioch is a student-driven university.
  • The well-established international connections and network is extremely helpful to students.
  • The opportunity to partake in field experiences is also a plus.
  • The ES office staff are fantastic. We couldn’t live without you!
  • The interdisciplinary program, although challenging, is positive overall.
  • The Learning Domains are unique and a great growing process.
  • Pedagogy is right on!
  • Design of first year is great.
  • Faculty are very accessible, positive and flexible.
  • We love the low residency component of the program.
  • “The legend of the Antioch culture is true!” Antioch radiates a supportive and welcoming culture.”

Antioch University New England is fully accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

Antioch University New England’s Doctoral Program in Environmental Studies is a dynamic learning community of environmental scholar/practitioners who combine scope and vision with depth and precision, conceptualizing and implementing research strategies and designs that:

  1. contribute to solving regional, national, and global environmental problems;
  2. develop and evolve discourses of ecological thought, using ecological principles and systems thinking as the foundation for multi-disciplinary approaches to knowledge and learning;
  3. respond to critical community and institutional needs, attendant to the concerns of organizational development and human diversity;
  4. lend an epistemological dimension to professional practice and scholarship, encouraging engaged research, intellectual challenge, conceptual insight, and practical action;
  5. understand, evaluate, and implement diverse research designs and strategies, what we call methodological pluralism;
  6. articulate and delineate the boundaries of knowledge and information, within the context of a specific, complex problem, with local and/or global parameters;
  7. identify the ethical and moral commonwealth of research and scholarship, contributing original and/or collaborative knowledge in the spirit of open inquiry and moral purpose.

Given the urgency and ubiquity of environmental problems, it is essential to train researchers who are prepared to study, understand, reflect on, and contribute original knowledge to the solution of these problems. We expect that advanced practitioners wish to better understand whether programs work, why policies succeed or fail, the intellectual and epistemological context of problems, and the prospects for imaginative, multidisciplinary solutions. The Antioch University New England program is for students and faculty who wish to do such research. Excellent scholarship refers to intellectual rigor, the ability to understand a problem from several perspectives, thoroughness, knowledge of the literature, the ability to effectively communicate, knowing how to choose and synthesize diverse strands of information, ethical integrity, self-critique, and collaborative inquiry. We believe that the PhD includes not just the content area or field of study, but also an awareness of how personal values and the cultural context of the learning experience frame and lend meaning to the research problem. This is the core of doctoral learning

Spring 2016

February 5-7 

March 4-6 

April 1-3 

May 6-8

Fall 2016

Sept. 9, 10, 11 (Phases 1, 2, 3, 4)

Sept. 30, Oct. 1, 2 (Phase 1 only)

Nov. 4, 5, 6 (Phases 1, 2, 3, 4)

Dec. 2, 3, 4 (Phases 1, 2)

Spring 2017

Feb. 3, 4, 5 (Phases 1, 2, 3, 4)

Mar. 3, 4, 5 (Phase 1 only)

April 7, 8, 9 (Phases 1, 2, 3, 4)

Apr. 28, 29, 30 (Phases 1, 2)

Environmental Studies integrates a wide range of concepts and ideas, and embraces multiple methodological approaches to understanding and solving critical and emerging environmental challenges. The current areas of research interest and expertise among ES PhD students and faculty overlap significantly and intentionally, and indicate the richness of content, dialog, scholarship, and practice in our program. The following illustrate the research areas of our students and faculty:

We believe in and value your life experiences… so much so it may be possible for you to enter our doctoral program with advanced standing based on those life experiences, and thus reduce both the time and cost of earning your PhD in Environmental Studies. See tab on Advanced Standing Policy.

Prospective students come from a wide variety of institutions and settings. The environmental community is composed of numerous small and moderate-sized organizations. These include environmental education centers, nature centers, schools, museums, advocacy organizations, planning agencies, college- and university-based environmental centers, public issues programs, public interest groups, state and federal environmental agencies, businesses, and consulting firms.

Environmental professionals in these organizations are usually engaged in diverse managerial, educational, and policy-oriented activities, often in a leadership role.

Practitioners Looking for New Academic & Professional Challenges

One type of Antioch doctoral student in Environmental Studies has significant work experience in the environmental field. This may include management, education, teaching, planning, scholarship, research, writing, public relations, business, communications, advocacy, policy development and analysis, or consulting. This person typically has already earned a master’s degree, but is looking for new academic and professional challenges. He or she is interested in scholarship and research but has the orientation of a reflective practitioner. The environmental professions have a broad and varied landscape.

Desiring College-Level Teaching, Educational & Policy Consulting, Research & Publishing Opportunities

A second group of prospective students includes college or community college faculty who have not yet attained a doctorate, independent scholars, freelance writers, naturalists, conservation biologists, international environmental educators, and recent graduates of master’s level environmental studies programs.

These are people who are interested in college-level teaching, educational and policy consulting, research, or writing and publishing.

Educators, Therapist, Writers & Artists Interested in Psycho-spiritual Inquiry

A third group includes educators, therapists, writers, and artists who are interested in the psycho-spiritual aspects of environmental studies. They work in the fields of outdoor and adventure education, social work, ecopsychology, and are interested in using environmental studies as the basis for new approaches to learning, teaching, healing, and organizational change.

Experienced field and conservation biologists

Another group includes experienced field biologists from state, federal, and nonprofit organizations, and professional conservation biologists from non-governmental organizations from the U.S. and internationally. These individuals have recently worked in the field and bring to the program a depth of practical international and local field ecology and conservation experiences. These individuals typically seek positions in academic settings or research institutions.

We have attracted applicants who have brought a wide array of professional and academic skill and experience to the Antioch University New England community. These candidates for admission have been extremely capable, committed professionals who work as environmental administrators and managers for organizations and educational centers, educators in schools and universities, scientists, social service providers, journalists, and others. Their educational backgrounds reveal advanced degrees in education; botany, biology, and forestry; and social services, and undergraduate majors in the sciences, social sciences, fine arts, and humanities.

Some Demographics of AUNE ES PhD Students

Of the applicants, 65 percent were women and 35 percent men, with the average age of forty-two. The geographic distribution was diverse with 40 percent from New England, and 60 percent from outside of New England.

Antioch University New England’s program is designed for the individual committed to scholarly excellence, who wishes to design, implement, and evaluate innovative research regarding crucial environmental issues. This is a risk-taker, a person who is willing to participate in online learning, alternative delivery models, and an innovative approach to doctoral education. We submit that this is precisely what the profession requires. Our students are involved in creating an academic, reflective, and scholarly approach to professional environmental issues, one that is attendant to the problems and ideals of the twenty-first century.

The program combines structured coursework, individualized learning contracts, and online learning by developing an integrated learning community of advanced environmental scholars and professionals, who are able to continue their work commitments. In addition, the program emphasizes research strategies and designs that emerge both from traditional qualitative and quantitative approaches, but include the emerging constructions and metaphors of ecological thought. Given the diverse professional, academic, and geographical backgrounds of our students and faculty and the enormous range of subject matter in the environmental professions, our program design is flexible enough to accommodate individual programs, yet focused enough to generate collegial, collaborative, and challenging discourse within a solid academic framework. Breadth is achieved through a sequence of required foundation courses. Depth is achieved through contracted learning and the dissertation process. The program has been designed to meet the needs of active environmental professionals and scholars. The design features the following qualities:

  1. Working professionals have limited time to spend away from their jobs but require a collaborative and rigorous learning community. One way to achieve this is through a strong and supportive cohort group. Our learning community encourages free and open inquiry, a sustained and challenging discourse, the consideration of diverse and multiple perspectives, issues of mutual interest, an awareness of the learning process, and room for self-reflection. Each entering class travels through the four phases of the program together as a cohort group, developing a deep interest in each others’ work, establishing lifelong bonds of friendship and collegiality, and developing measures of support and critique that are invaluable learning tools.
  2. A cohort is strengthened through the effective use of electronic information pathways. An electronic conference system, email, and accessible websites and listservs, when balanced with regular face-to-face contact, ensure the viability and depth of a learning community. Sustaining learning communities at a distance is a realistic goal and perhaps a necessity in a so-called information society. Environmental scholarship relies on these formats to gather and disseminate information. This includes the publication of online journals and newsletters, access to environmental databases, the use of advocacy networks, and the ability to communicate effectively both with a cohort group and a broader constituency of environmental scholars and professionals.
  3. Mentoring and advising are crucial aspects of a learning community. The faculty cultivate strong mentoring relationships. During the first year of the program, students are encouraged to work closely with all of the faculty. Through coursework, they learn about each faculty member’s research interests and teaching approaches. Throughout all four phases of the program, students and faculty work very closely together in small classes, becoming intimately familiar with their common interests and ideas. Midway through the first year, students choose faculty advisers. Typically, the adviser becomes the dissertation chair. The adviser is deeply interested in the student’s work, providing support and encouragement, helping the student develop substantive expertise as well as explore issues of voice and expression. Through various consultations, the student and adviser become a learning team, thinking through scholarly choices and directions.
  4. A doctoral program must be rigorous and deep, challenging students and faculty alike to think critically, imaginatively, and boldly. This requires a commitment to the highest standards of academic scholarship. Although our program is designed so that people can work and study simultaneously, the program places a new set of demands on a student’s time and commitments. These are exciting and deeply engaging prospects, yet they do change a student’s life, requiring a sense of purpose and efficiency. As students proceed through the program, they find that their scholarly interests are so engaging that they begin to take their full attention. During the dissertation process, it is especially helpful to find ways of integrating one’s professional commitments and academic work, or to find special fellowships or other means of support.
  5. Environmental scholars should be reflective practitioners. In their professional roles, they have the leadership skills to implement innovative ideas and programs. As scholars, they have the reflective capacity and the theoretical tools to analyze their work and place it in a broad perspective. Antioch maintains a distinguished tradition emphasizing the integration of theory and practice. The environmental professional must consider the applied consequences of scholarly work. Thus we value the relationships between the university, the community, and the workplace. The program supports research that improves the effectiveness of environmental professionals, the organizations where they work, and the regions which they serve.
  6. The environmental scholar is an engaged person, involved in relationships that require commitment, compassion, and conflict. Important values and ideals form the core of this engagement. The program emphasizes ecological identity and the importance of personal reflection. Environmental scholars must understand the psychological, ethical, and spiritual basis of their decisions, especially given the complex circumstances that surround environmental issues. By reflecting on and studying their experience of nature and community, they strengthen their ethical and moral resolve.


Doctor of Philosophy in Environmental Studies

PhD-69 credits

The doctoral program in Environmental Studies is at minimum a four-year, full-time program with the exception of candidacy, which is half-time. Students are required to attend classes for an 8-day intensive during each of the four summer sessions of the program. They are also required to attend classes on campus four weekends (Friday – Sunday) during the fall semester and four weekends during the spring semester of the first phase of the program; three weekends in the fall and three in the spring of the second phase; and two weekends each fall and spring semester in the third and fourth phases of the program. These doctoral weekends typically fall on the first or second weekend of each month. The program also requires weekly online work to supplement class time on campus. All of the courses described below are required courses, unless otherwise indicated.

Students have a maximum limit of ten years from the date of entry to complete all degree requirements, including the dissertation, and 69 semester-hour credits beyond the master’s. The student must complete the Candidacy Exam and successfully defend the Dissertation Proposal before admission to The Dissertation Year.

Required courses are listed under each competency area.

Phase 1 Foundation 18 credits
  • ES 707 Introduction to Research Design (3)
  • ES 700 Ecological Thought (3)
  • ES 702 Comparative Ecological Analysis (3)
  • ES 703 Global Environmental Change (3)
  • ES 705 Political Economy and Sustainability (3)
  • ES 704 Environmental History (3)
Phase 2 Learning Domain

  • 727 Research Strategy: Theory, Method, and Design (6)
  • ES 726 Doctoral Learning Domain & Environmental Leadership I & II (6)
  • Individualized Learning Contract (12)

To be selected from:

  • Approved Antioch graduate courses
  • Doctoral Learning Domain Projects (independent studies, formal courses)
  • Reading Seminars
24 credits
Phase 3 Candidacy

  • ES 771 Doctoral Qualifying Exam (3)
  • ES 774 Dissertation Proposal Seminar * (3)
  • ES Service Learning Seminar* (3)
9 credits
Phase 4 Dissertation

    • ES 752 Service Learning Project *(3)
    • ES 776 Dissertation Seminar (2 semesters, 3 credits each = 6)
    • ES 899 Doctoral Dissertation (3 semesters, 3 credits each = 9)

* May be taken the previous year in the program with permission of advisor and instructor.

18 credits

Total Credits for PhD in Environmental Studies

69 credits

ES PhD: Sequence of Study

  • The doctoral curriculum consists of four phases: Foundation Courses; Research Strategies and Learning Domains; Candidacy; and Dissertation.
  • Each year begins with the summer semester 8-day intensive.
  • Fall and spring semester classes take place over four three-day weekends during Phase 1 of the program, three times a semester during Phase 2, and twice a semester during phases 3 and 4 of the program.
  • Students and faculty remain engaged throughout the year via additional online learning.

During a class weekend, students typically arrive for a colloquium at 11 a.m. on Friday and take classes on Friday afternoon, Saturday all day, and Sunday until noon. Saturdays from 12-1 is reserved for community meetings.

Phase 1: Foundation                                                                                            18 credits


  • Introduction to Research Design (3)
  • Ecological Thought (3)


  • Comparative Ecological Analysis (3)
  • Environmental History (3)


  • Global Environmental Change (3)
  • Political Economy and Sustainability (3)

Phase 2: Learning Domain                                                                              24 credits


  • Research Strategy I: Theory, Method and Design (3)
  • Learning Domain Seminar I (3)


  • Research Strategy Theory II, Method, and Design (3)
  • Individualized Learning Domains. Two courses (6) To be selected from:
    • Approved Antioch graduate courses
    • Doctoral Learning Domain Projects (independent studies, formal courses)
    • Reading Seminars


  • Learning Domain Seminar II (3)
  • Individualized Learning Domain. Two courses (6). To be selected from:
    • Approved Antioch graduate courses
    • Doctoral Learning Domain Projects (independent studies, formal courses)
    • Reading Seminars


  • Vacation or Individualized Learning Domain. One course (3). To be selected from:
    • Approved Antioch graduate courses
    • Doctoral Learning Domain Projects (independent studies, formal courses)
    • Reading Seminars

Phase 3: Candidacy                                                                                               9  credits


  • Doctoral Qualifying Exam (3)
  • Service Learning Seminar* (3)


  • Dissertation Proposal Seminar (3)

Phase 4: Dissertation                                                                                          18 credits


  • Dissertation Seminar (3)
  • Doctoral Dissertation (3)


  • Service Learning Project** (3)
  • Doctoral Dissertation (3)


  • Dissertation Seminar (3)
  • Doctoral Dissertation (3)

* May be taken during fall of Phase 3 or 4. ** May be taken any time during Phase 3 or 4.

Total Credits for PhD in Environmental Studies                               69 credits


An Overview of Key Elements

The doctoral learning sequence consists of four phases. These phases are designed to allow participants to acquire the skills of interdisciplinary scholarship and research, to explore specific areas of interest in depth, to apply their learning in a professional context, and to complete a comprehensive scholarly project. Phase I (Foundation Courses): Phase One provides the framework and boundaries of interdisciplinary environmental scholarship. Organized around a series of intensive courses, students develop the conceptual foundations to understand research themes, topic areas, information sources, scientific inquiry, and controversial issues in the following realms: research philosophies, ecological thought, the principles of ecology, global environmental change, political economy of environmental issues, and environmental history. Phase One coursework is integrative, theoretical, and conceptual, offering a wide range of courses that espouse a clear direction and vision, and reflect a broad array of faculty and student interests. Depending on who teaches and takes Environmental History, one might, for example, study philosophy of nature, diverse perspectives of nature in historical time, environmental ethics, or the history of American environmentalism. Similarly, Global Environmental Change can emphasize global warming, biodiversity, population studies, earth systems science, international environmental geopolitics, or attend to different interests of the learning community. This flexibility is essential, yet at the same time, the courses reflect unifying goals and objectives. These courses are taught so as to delineate the seminal conceptual themes, to emphasize research issues in the subject, and to explore research ideas and fields of study. Two courses are offered during the summer semester (eight days in late June). Two courses are offered concurrently over a three-day period, Friday to Sunday, during one weekend of each month (fall and spring semesters). All students proceed together through this required sequence of courses.

Phase II (Research Strategies and Learning Domains): During Phase Two students participate in an individualized, contracted learning program reflecting their academic and professional orientation. Students participate in a two-semester-long research seminar in which they learn the methodologies and literature that are appropriate to their work. In combination with selected courses, tutorials, and independent studies, they construct individualized academic strategies. All participants attend the intensive summer session (eight days in late June) and attend three intensive three-day weekend seminars each fall and spring semester. A crucial function of the second phase of the doctoral program is the development of an individualized learning contract, what we call the Learning Domain.

Phase I: Foundation Courses

Ecological Thought

The course is organized on the premise that there is an emerging ecological worldview that is the foundation of academic environmental studies, professional environmental practice, and the contemporary environmental movement. This worldview transcends the domain of environmentalism per se, and is influential in a range of disciplines, professions and dimensions of public life. This course explores the dynamics of its emergence, by attending to three interconnected conceptual sets: ecology, nature and life (systems thinking, ecological thinking, evolutionary thought), power, place and space (power relations, natural resource transformation, globalization, the commons, paradigms of activism, environmental movements), and meaning, purpose, and identity (ecopsychology and ecospirituality, literary expression, perception and language, story and myth, and ecological identity). Students will have the opportunity to explore the intellectual roots of their own ecological worldview and to assess a specific intellectual direction of interest.

Introduction to Research Design

The purpose of this course is to become familiar with a variety of research paradigms and to study the different lenses that they provide for viewing and understanding the world, and in particular, the physical environment. Within paradigms, students try out different methodological approaches, such as surveys, in-depth interviews, case studies, and quasi experiments. Through the development of a research proposal, students ground discussions of theory in the practical concerns of research: framing research questions; designing a study; collecting and analyzing data; dealing with validity, reliability, and ethical issues; and writing a research report.

Comparative Ecological Analysis

This course is designed to provide participants with the methods and strategies needed to apply ecological principles in research. Interpretive tools, research methods, and theoretical approaches include basic statistical analysis and design, field ecology techniques, and computer models or simulations. Using ecological principles as a foundation, other approaches such as natural resource inventory, ecological impact assessment, and ecological restoration are covered. The course has a case study orientation, emphasizing contemporary ecological problems in diverse habitats, exploring the common problems and solutions that emerge.

Environmental History

This course examines the historical, cultural, and philosophical origins of our concepts of the environment. This course provides an overview of the environmental history of the United States and of the world, and indigenous views of environmental history. Students participate in many approaches to history, from histographical, social, political, and literary history to artistic and mythic approaches. In this course, students develop a framework for understanding how our conception of the environment has changed through time, and strengthen their understanding of how historical and philosophical issues engage and inform current debates.

Global Environmental Change

This course focuses on the natural and anthropogenic transformations of earth’s environment, transformations whose underlying processes occur across a multiplicity of space and time scales and whose non-linear interrelationships complicate prediction. Global environmental change has conditioned the earth for life, but human economic and population growth have dramatically accelerated environmental change during the past two centuries. We will examine long-term records of environmental change and the array of approaches and methods employed to understand evolution and behavior of the earth system, in order to contextualize historic and recent trends. Assessment of global change models and scenarios will provide information critical for evaluating the magnitude and significance of human forcing of change, ecosystem and societal vulnerability, and approaches to sustainability.

Political Economy and Sustainability

Political economy seeks to explain how political institutions, the economic system, applied sciences, and social movements interact over time. This course focuses on how these dynamics generate varied outcomes in relation to the goals of sustainability, justice, and economic well-being. Students will examine the political and economic roots of the global sustainability crisis. Students will assess political and economic reforms, policy processes, and policy tools that might yield better outcomes. Students will also develop a greater understanding of possible action strategies from within civil society, the business sector, government, and/or international bodies for creating a transition toward a more sustainable society. Doctoral students will explore theories, evidence, and controversies associated with the political, social, cultural, and/or economic dimensions of a specific topic relevant to their doctoral interests.

Phase II: Research Strategies and Learning Domains

Learning Domain Seminar  I

A series of lectures and workshops in this course are designed to provide students with the intellectual depth and research tools to define their learning domain. The students will engage in library research to fill out their individual knowledge maps, and the attendant literature on theoretical and applied dimensions of the thought collectives, theories, research applications and controversies associated with the learning domain. Students will discuss their work with leading scholars and writers and learn how others set the framework for and carry out their research. By the end of the course, students will have produced a blueprint blueprint to guide their learning through the coming year.

Research Strategy: Theory, Method and Design I

The emphasis during this semester of this two-part course is on how to interpret and evaluate positivist research studies. Positive research is by far the dominant paradigm of research in science today. By drawing upon published empirical research, students will learn firsthand how to dissect research studies to identify their shortcomings and strengths. Applications will come from social and natural sciences. Attention will be given to defining variables, designing experiments, and interpreting statistical analyses. Research ethics will be discussed. Students will be expected to write a literature review comparing and evaluating several similar research studies.

Reading Seminar

The purpose of the reading seminars is to allow students and faculty to engage in reading and writing on topics of mutual interest. During the Spring of Phase One, faculty (in consultation with students) develop a list of proposed seminars, reflecting their own interests and the emerging areas of interest in the learning community. During the Summer of Phase Two, students and faculty select the reading topics that are of most interest. In effect, the learning community constructs these specialized seminars. Reading seminars are particularly useful as a way to study bodies of knowledge and substantive themes that are of community-wide interest.

Research Strategy: Theory, Method and Design II

Qualitative inquiry has unique capacity to describe social behavior and process, uncover causal linkages, interpret meaning and significance, and build robust, empirical theory. Doing qualitative research involves more than mastering technical aspects of methods. It also requires grounding methodological decisions in a theoretical perspective and engaging ethical and political dimensions of doing research with others in social settings. This course offers an introduction to qualitative inquiry as it applies to environmental studies and related phenomena. It explores the philosophical underpinnings of particular traditions (e.g., ethnography, grounded theory) and builds practical competence with specific research skills (e.g., interviews, observation, field notes, analysis).

Learning Domain Seminar II

The purpose of this seminar is to provide an opportunity for students to engage their learning domain in the larger academic discourse and to delve into aspects of their learning domain that have not been addressed in reading circles, courses, or independent studies. Students will concentrate on developing critical reading and writing skills, and will create a piece of writing for publication.

Phase III: Candidacy Projects

Doctoral Qualifying Exam

The Qualifying Exam is the culmination of the learning domain. It is an opportunity for students to organize, interpret, and amplify their core scholarly interests. The essay is essentially a literature review which demonstrates the ability to synthesize and conceptualize knowledge, to contribute new ideas to an emerging field of study, to express the theoretical and practical significance of these ideas, and to consider their consequences for scholarship, research, and/or professional practice. The purpose of the Qualifying Exam is to cultivate those insights, by exploring them in depth, tracing their formulation, development, and application.

Service Learning Seminar

The Service Project is an opportunity to cooperate with a specific institutional, organizational, or community group addressing concerns of relevance to the student’s academic work. This provides a public context for one’s scholarly interests, both providing expertise to a project, and allowing the student to learn from the experience of the community, building broad coalitions for environmental work, and using the doctoral learning process as a service for diverse constituencie

Dissertation Proposal Seminar

This seminar allows students to devote themselves to developing and refining the research questions that are the foundation of a dissertation, and to exploring, analyzing and critiquing methods specific to their research interests with the purpose of selecting the methods they will employ. Upon completion of this seminar students should have completed or be very close to completing a draft research proposal, which sets forth the nature of their dissertation inquiry and a detailed account of the methods to be used. Since the proposal also contains material supporting the relevance of the dissertation topic and the appropriateness of the chosen methods, the seminar will also focus on the organization of literature surveys and the identification of key references that serve as models for the specific dissertation work.

Phase IV: The Dissertation Process

Doctoral Service Learning Project

The Service Project is an opportunity to cooperate with a specific institutional, organizational, or community group addressing concerns of relevance to the student’s academic work. This provides a public context for one’s scholarly interests, both providing expertise to a project, and allowing the student to learn from the experience of the community, building broad coalitions for environmental work, and using the doctoral learning process as a service for diverse constituencies.

Dissertation Seminar

This year-long seminar is designed to provide support and consultation for students in the process of formulating and carrying out their doctoral dissertation research. Topics to be addressed during the year include: ongoing evaluation and assessment of research methods, research ethics, dilemmas of working in the field, analysis, writing the dissertation, making formal presentations, dissemination of research results, and transformations students experience in their growth as scholars. Students along with the instructors are intended to serve as a peer community, providing support, advice, and critique. Each semester, students will make a formal presentation to the class documenting the current state of their research and bringing to the class the expertise they have developed. Additional faculty may be brought in as needed to provide input in special topic areas.

Here are some examples of how a Learning Domain might be conceived:

  1. The education director of a nature center may wish to study the educational factors that contribute to environmental literacy. Her ultimate goal may be to implement exemplary environmental education programs. In this case, research, design, and application may include topics such as environmental interpretation, environmental education methodologies, science education, the history of environmental education, cognitive theory, curriculum development, wilderness education, multicultural education, controversial issues education, or educational policy. The student’s professional interests may lead her to develop, research, evaluate, and implement techniques currently being used in environmental education, that have been proposed for dissemination, or have been the subject of educational controversy. A special emphasis may be placed on the evaluation and assessment of environmental education programs, processes, and projects.
  2. An interdisciplinary scholar may wish to teach environmental studies or environmental education at the college level. His academic interest may involve understanding a broad range of conceptual approaches, including ecological principles, global ecology, and environmental science, with specific competence in topics such as wetlands, water quality, land use, or waste management. This Learning Domain may focus on developing skills that promote excellence in college teaching. Preparation would include research and practice in environmental education methodologies, the history of environmental education in university settings, curriculum development, and communications theory. An individualized study program may include the development of innovative curriculum for interdisciplinary environmental studies courses, several supervised teaching experiences, and a study of the role of environmental education in the liberal arts curriculum.
  3. A curriculum designer may be specifically interested in how pre-adolescent children develop a sense of place. Her field of study may include various aspects of cognitive development, nature writing, cultural geography, cultural anthropology, and environmental psychology. Her research might include cross-cultural comparisons of ecological identity, focusing specifically on conceptions of place. This can be accomplished through a qualitative or quantitative design, depending on the specifics of the project and the goals of the researcher. The challenge is to create a field of knowledge that has conceptual integrity and yields a framework for literature review and research design.
  4. A field biologist with several years of experience working for a federal agency conducting endangered species research and management is interested in returning to academia to pursue in-depth research in endangered species conservation. She is interested in studying the effects of urbanization and habitat fragmentation on the distribution and persistence of an endangered species, and is particularly interested in overabundant native predators and how human activities influence their populations in endangered species habitat. She will include advanced statistics and research design methods in her Learning Domain year coursework, as well as attendance at pertinent academic and applied conferences and symposia. She will explore the primary literature in landscape ecology, mesopredators and predator-prey interactions, urban ecology, and conservation biology to develop a theoretical framework for her research question. She understands that focusing on ecology and wildlife management is not enough when working in the public sector; an interdisciplinary approach will allow her to become well-versed in multiple ideologies and enable her to better manage the human and political components inherent to conservation issues today.
  5. A consulting forester is interested in the relationship between local forestry practices and global environmental change. Over the last twenty years, she has observed significant habitat changes, including forest fragmentation, changing land use patterns, declining migrating song bird populations, and perhaps a shift in climate. To investigate these observations more fully requires a detailed study of conservation biology research techniques, biodiversity studies, island biogeography, landscape ecology, and global climate change. The student is particularly interested in the local policy ramifications of this research and decides to specialize in nature reserve and wildlands design, integrating ecological patterns with an understanding of environmental policy.
  6. The policy director of an environmental organization that supports and implements international exchange programs is interested in exploring the cross-cultural dimensions of grass roots environmentalism. His long-range goal is to facilitate the development of international environmentalism, but he wishes to do this within a more specific context, i.e., comparative land use policy. Recognizing this, he develops a program that explores ecological economics, international land use policy, grass roots political organization, and community organization. He may also choose to specialize in a specific country or region, learning the linguistic, cultural, and environmental history of that area. His research may involve a case study of successful exchange programs, emphasizing policy recommendations.
  7. The director of a regional land trust is interested in the theoretical context of sustainable economics, including the historical evolution of environmentalism. As a political activist, she has been a major influence in the development of a regional Green party. As a field of study, she is interested in Green political theory and its relationship to contemporary environmentalism. This includes an innovative integration of political philosophy, political economy, environmental ethics, and social theory. Her research may include a case study of the development of Green politics in a specific region, an analysis of Green political values, or a theoretical discussion of the ecological basis of Green politics.
  8. The director of a wilderness expeditions travel program is interested in the therapeutic potential of outdoor experiences. He has been developing integrated programs which include natural history exploration, adventure challenge, and meditation techniques. These programs serve a wide variety of clients. As preparation for research, the student designs a comprehensive reading program in ecopsychology, evolutionary psychology, ecospirituality, and cultural studies. His research may include detailed qualitative assessments of whether individuals and groups are transformed by seminal wilderness experiences and how these experiences are incorporated in everyday life.

Here are some titles of Learning Domains from current students:

  • Territories of Commonality: The Politics of Place in New England Watersheds
  • Land Use Ethics: Community Planning and Environmental Policy
  • Other Peoples’ Ecologies: Perception, Culture, and Natural Resources
  • Canopies, Insects, and Soils

The Antioch University New England Environmental Studies Doctoral program is designed for the adult learner/environmental practitioner who has a commitment to scholarly excellence, who wishes to design, implement, and evaluate innovative research regarding crucial environmental issues. This is a risk taker, a person who is willing to participate in on-line learning, alternative delivery models, and an innovative approach to doctoral education. We submit that this is precisely what the profession requires. Our students are involved in creating an academic, reflective, and scholarly approach to professional environmental issues, one that is specifically designed for the twenty-first century. The prospective student has significant work experience in the environmental field. This may include management, education, teaching, planning, research, writing, public relations, business, communications, advocacy, policy development and analysis, or consulting. This person typically has already earned a master’s degree, but is looking for new academic and professional challenges. Prospective students may emerge from one of the numerous organizations of the environmental community: environmental education centers, nature centers, museums, advocacy organizations, planning agencies, public interest groups, state and federal environmental agencies, businesses, and consulting firms.

YouTube Preview Image
Listen to ES PhD alumna Kimberly Langmaid’s TEDx talk. For her dissertation research, Kim interviewed mountain ecologists doing long-term studies in the Rocky Mountains about their experience of climate change.

Profiles of Students in the Program

Advanced Standing (AS) Proposal for ES PhD Program, v.09

Approved, 10/22/14

EFFECTIVE: ES PhD Summer Session, 2015

Submitted by the ES Policy & Procedures Committee: Jimmy Karlan, Liz Willey, Beth Kaplin, & Peter Palmiotto; Jim Gruber, ad hoc

The following Advanced Standing Policy for the ES PhD Program is intended to help ES doctoral students, faculty, staff, and administrators understand more clearly the opportunities and limitations for using transfer credits toward a doctoral degree in Environmental Studies.


Antioch University’s 5.611 Transfer and Intra-University Credit Policy states,

III. Intra-University and Intra-campus Application of Credits

  1. Credits earned at one Antioch University program may be applied into another Antioch University program, unit or campus pending the new program’s review of credit and curricular equivalency based on program requirements. All decisions regarding accepted credits are considered on a program-by-program basis, consistent with campus and institutional policy.

Antioch University New England’s 2014-2015 Academic Catalog

Furthermore, Antioch University New England’s 2014-2015 Academic Catalog clearly describes the conditions by which Masters students may be credited with prior learning achieved through recent coursework as well as other life experiences. (p. 39) [The policy and procedures below articulates how the ES PhD Program will credit prior learning achieved through recent coursework as well as other life experiences.]

In respect to Advanced Standing for students working toward a doctoral degree, the academic catalog states, “3. The use of transfer credits toward a doctoral degree is at the discretion of the doctoral program director. Please see your academic department for further information.” (p. 40)

Advanced Standing Waivers

Advanced Standing

Antioch University New England Environmental Studies PhD Program may credit prior learning achieved through recent coursework taken for graduate academic credit at an accredited institution and prior learning through various other life experiences. Advanced standing credits means that students can apply their relevant previous learning experience toward their required credits for their program degree at Antioch University New England.


An alternative to transferring credits into the PhD program is to request a waiver of a course or competency area requirement from the ES PhD Program Director. This will allow a student to take more elective credits in subjects of interest, but will not lower the minimum number of credits required to earn a degree at Antioch University New England. Refer to the current Academic Catalog for AUNE’s waiver policy for more detail.



Who decides whether a student may receive Advanced Standing (AS)?

The ES PhD Program Director, in consultation with faculty who teach courses relevant to the requested transfer credits, makes a recommendation to the ES Department Chairperson who makes the final determination as to whether a student may receive AS. Students who wish to apply for advanced standing in the ES PhD Program, using transfer credits and/or life experience, are advised to speak with the PhD Program Director upon admission.

When should students apply for Advanced Standing?

An application should be obtained from the ES PhD Program Director and completed within one year following the 1st day of a student’s first term. (See the official Academic Calendar provided by the Registrar Office for AUNE official start dates for each term.)

Decisions on Advanced Standing will be made within 30 days of a completed application and will take into account a student’s performance in the program to date as well as all material submitted with a student’s application.

How does a student apply for AS?

1) Applications to the ES PhD Program will ask students if they plan to apply for Advanced Standing and will inform students that once accepted it is the responsibility of the student to obtain an Application for Advanced Standing from the ES PhD Program Director. Note that there are two avenues through which a student can apply for AS: 1) from prior graduate credit, and 2) from prior learning based on life experience. There is a separate application for each of these two avenues. The applications for AS in the ES PhD program will be stored in the Environmental Studies Department Sakai site: AUNE ES Sakai / Resources / Policies.

2) AS applications, whether through prior graduate credits or life experiences, must be submitted within one year following the 1st day of a student’s first term in the Ph.D. program. See the official Academic Calendar provided by the Registrar Office for AUNE official start dates for each term.

3) If applying for AS using prior graduate credits, the student must include on the application a list of the courses s/he believes can be used to transfer in credits, and associate the course with the course s/he believes is equivalent in the department’s PhD curriculum. Please refer to the form, “ES Ph.D. Advanced Standing Application Form: Transfer of Prior Graduate Credit”. If a student is applying for AS using life experience, he/she must instead complete the form: “ES Ph.D. Advanced Standing Application Form: Credit Award Based on Prior Life Experience”, and follow the three step process outlined below. Both forms are located in the folder AUNE ES Sakai / Resources / Policies / Forms.

4) After receiving an AS application, the ES PhD Program Director will have up to 30 days to make a recommendation to the ES Department Chairperson, who decides on the student’s AS request. The ES Department Chairperson has up to 15 calendar days to make a final decision on the Advanced Standing proposal. It is the responsibility of the AS applicant to ensure that applications are submitted well in advance of the commencement of the course(s) they are proposing to apply their Advanced Standing credits toward.

What can be transferred for Advanced Standing credits?

Antioch University New England will consider credits from recent coursework taken for graduate academic credit at an accredited institution. A maximum of 25% of a Program’s credits can be obtained from Advanced Standing requirements. If a student believes that he or she has achieved significant learning beyond a bachelor’s, which was not previously used toward a graduate degree, and wants that learning to appear on his/her Antioch transcript, that student may apply for Advanced Standing.

Courses considered for AS must have been taken within the last 10 years of submitting the AS application, must meet the expectations of the course learning objectives for the course being replaced, and must not have been used toward a prior graduate degree, with two exceptions:

  1. The ES Department will grant up to six credits toward a student’s ES PhD requirements from two ES Master’s courses that were satisfactorily completed at AUNE, assuming that they are determined to be comparable to required ES PhD courses.
  1. A student who has earned a second Masters degree as a result of not completing a PhD Program may have some of their prior PhD coursework applied toward their Advanced Standing if they meet all the other criteria for AS.

Only a grade of B or better will be accepted for transfer credit if the institution uses a traditional graded system of evaluation.

Internship or practicum credits taken at another school may be applied toward course requirements if they meet the requirements for Advanced Standing.

Professional or life experiences may be used to transfer in credits to the PhD in Environmental Studies Program. Antioch University New England will award credit only for the demonstrated learning consistent with the requirements of the ES PhD Program (see the process outlined below).

Credit for academic work that is more than ten years old can only be used for potential AS credits as part of a student’s application for prior learning from life experiences.

To which required ES PhD Program courses can AS be applied?

Only Phase I and II courses will be considered for AS placement.

AS can only apply to a maximum of 2 courses equivalent to two Learning Domain courses.

What cannot be applied to AS credits?

AS credits cannot apply to any courses after Phase II of the program, including, but not limited to the qualifying exam and dissertation proposal.

Earned graduate credits that have been applied toward another degree cannot be credited toward an Antioch degree through the AS process, with the two exceptions noted above (AUNE M.S. Environmental Studies students and students who were previously enrolled in a PhD program elsewhere).

Courses taken at Antioch University New England as a non-matriculated student, within five years of matriculation, will apply automatically to a student’s program and are not considered transfer credits.

Continuing education units or professional development credits may not be transferred, but may be the basis for prior learning derived from life experience.

What is considered prior learning from life experience?

Candidates for prior learning from life experience credits should be aware that some colleges and universities view life experience credit differently from classroom-based credit. Students considering transfer to, or additional graduate study at other institutions should make themselves aware of relevant transfer and admissions policies at those institutions before applying for prior learning credit.

Prior learning from life experience must meet two initial tests:

  1. It must be equivalent to a graduate level learning experience, and
  1. It must be relevant to the student’s current degree program. This means that the ES PhD Program Director, in consultation with the faculty content expert, believes that the student’s previous learning experience fulfills the requirements needed for the student’s degree program.

Prior learning may be acquired from a variety of experiences, including:

  1. Non-credit bearing professional training such as summer institutes, in house training, workshops, and professional development sponsored by employers;
  1. Professional experiences such as job related work projects, committee and task force work;
  1. Volunteer work in community organizations or local government;
  1. Significant personal experience such as travel;
  1. Graduate work more than ten years old by students’ program start date;
  1. Graduate courses taken after earning the bachelor’s degree that did not lead to a Master’s degree;
  1. Graduate work at an unaccredited institution;
  1. Continuing education units or professional development credits may be the basis for learning derived from life experience.

How do students demonstrate and document their life experiences for AS credits?

Students who seek a course waiver for learning derived from life experience must be able both to document their experience and to demonstrate not only their learning but also how that prior learning might meet their degree requirements.


Documentation is the provision of written materials, or other products, confirming that you have had certain experiences that resulted in learning and collated in the form of a plan (see below). Examples of acceptable documentation would include: Job descriptions, certificates of attendance or achievement; copies of speeches made or articles, papers, or reports written, curriculum units designed, and supporting letters from supervisors or colleagues.


Demonstration is the process by which you articulate the learning that has resulted from these experiences. Most demonstrations are in the form of essays, critiques, or case studies.


How do students apply for the crediting of prior learning experience(s)?




The student has primary responsibility for determining areas of prior learning to be assessed, planning and gathering documentation, arranging for the demonstration of knowledge and/or skills, and completing all application materials. The student is expected to work closely with the Ph.D. Program Director and his or her advisor in the process. The application process involves three phases.


The Program Director is responsible for guiding the student in the development of a plan and associated documentation. The Program Director is responsible for consultation in the planning process, for approval of the student’s plan, including the documentation and demonstration, for contact and designation of outside experts, and/or a Review Committee, if necessary, to review the student’s material, and for the overall supervision of the advanced standing process. The ES Department Chairperson makes a final determination in the award of AS credit.


Experts who agree to participate at the request of the Program Director are responsible for evaluating the student’s prior learning in their specific area of expertise.


Step I: Development and submission of a plan


  • The student Identifies and defines the areas in which s/he has knowledge and/or skills that could be credited towards meeting degree requirements for the ES PhD Program.


  • The student identifies options for documenting and demonstrating the work.


  • The student meets with the PhD Program Director for a preliminary discussion on the content and process of the application and completes Step I of the form: “ES Ph.D. Advanced Standing Application Form: Credit Award Based on Prior Life Experience”, located in the folder AUNE ES Sakai / Resources / Policies / Forms.

Step II: Development and submission of the AS Application


Once the Advanced Standing plan has been reviewed and approved by the ES PhD Program Director, a student should prepare all the necessary documentation supporting their approved plan from Step 1:


  • The student submits to the ES PhD Program Director a completed application for Advanced Standing for prior learning based on life experience that  includes all the necessary documentation for and demonstration of each area of competence


  •   The ES PhD Program Director may approve the submitted application, propose modifications, or recommend against the application.


Step III: Decision on Credits


  1. The ES PhD Program Director will notify the ES Department Chairperson of his/her recommendation of an Advanced Standing application.


  1. The ES Department Chairperson will review the Program Director’s recommendation and make a final determination in the award of credit.


  1. The Department Chair will submit the final credit award to the Registrar’s Office.


  1. The Registrar’s Office will post the credit(s) to a student’s Antioch University New England transcript and file the original copy in the student’s permanent file. Transfer credits will then appear on a student’s online academic credit history.