Self-Designed Studies

Joe MartellWhen your career goals transcend the academic boundaries of our existing Environmental Studies programs, you may consider a more individualized approach. Students engage in a rigorous and rewarding process of crafting an academic framework which reflects their individual professional goals while providing a structured and disciplined approach for achieving academic depth and meaningful practice.

Self-Designed studies provide an avenue for students whose interests lie at the intersection of disciplines, such as nature and writing, conservation and communications, agriculture and community, art and environment, ecology and psychology. Those choosing this option must have a predominantly environmental focus, a strong academic background, experience in their proposed field of study, and clearly articulated professional goals.

Chart your own course.

Name and describe the program you envision. Then work with an advisor to craft a program of study that integrates advanced coursework in your area of interest with foundation courses in environmental studies.

Create an interdisciplinary program.

Antioch University New England has a longstanding tradition of providing unique educational opportunities. Self-Designed studies allow you to blend your academic strengths and professional experience to create a curriculum that goes beyond traditional boundaries.

Program Delivery

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

Students in Self-Designed studies build a program of study which includes five components:

  • 9-credits environmental studies core courses
  • 6-credits of courses essential to the student’s self-designed program plan
  • 18-credits of methods courses to add breadth and depth in areas of interest
  • 6-credits internship (Two 3-credit internships 600 hours total) to develop practical experience
  • 3-credits Capstone: (Special project, thesis, collaborative service initiative, or third internship)

To qualify for Self-Designed studies, candidates are required to petition for participation in the program prior to admission to AUNE and to submit a detailed proposal as part of the application process. The proposal includes a title and brief description of the intended program, and an outline of courses. Proposals for an Individualized Program are considered and approved based on the department’s ability to directly meet the majority of the student’s academic needs. A maximum of six students are admitted to Self-Designed studies each fall.

The Current Students page offers real-life examples of how AUNE students are designing their Self-Designed studies.

Track 1: Students who choose Track 1 register for 4 courses in both their first Fall and first Spring semesters. This track provides students with an opportunity to schedule the entire Summer and/or Spring II semesters off campus. *This is the preferred sequence for those intending to do a Master’s Thesis or Master’s Project.

Track 2: Students who choose Track 2 register for a maximum of 3 courses per semester. This Track provides students with a more evenly paced sequence of coursework throughout their program.


Select any 3 out of 4 Core courses

Core (C)- 9 credits; Concentration (T)- 6 credits; Methods: courses selected by student – 18 credits; Internship – 6 credits; Capstone Project – 3 credits

Track 1

Track 2

Fall I (12 credits)
Earth Systems and Climate Change (C)(3)
Community Ecology of the New England Landscapes (C)(3)
Self-designed concentration course (T)(3)
Methods (3)
 Fall I (9 credits)
Earth Systems and Climate Change (C)(3)
Community Ecology of the New England Landscapes (C)(3)
Self-designed concentration course (T)(3)
Spring I (12 credits)
Political Economy of Sustainability (C)(3)
Self-designed concentration course (T)(3)
Methods (3)
Methods (3)
Spring I (9 credits)
Political Economy of Sustainability (C)(3)
Self-designed concentration course(3)
Methods (3)
Summer (3 credits)
Internship I (3)
Summer (6 credits)
Methods (3)
Internship I (3)
Fall II (9 credits)
Leadership for Change (C)(3)
Methods (3)
Methods (3)
Fall II (9 credits)
Leadership for Change (C)(3)
Methods (3)
Methods (3)
Spring II (6 credits)
Capstone Project (3)
Internship II (3)
Spring II (9 credits)
Capstone Project (3)
Methods (3)
Internship II (3)

Sample Method courses include:

  • Building Sustainable Organizations(BSO)
  • Citizen Participation and Sustainable Communities
  • Climate Change: Resilience, Adaptation and Mitigation
  • Coastal Geoecology of New England (Fall 2011 field study trip)
  • Community & School-based Sustainable Food Systems
  • Conservation Psychology Theory & Application
  • Cuba: Sustainability and the New Food System (Fall 2012 registration; January 2013 field study trip)
  • Ecology and Management of Adirondack Mountains (Fall 2012 field study trip)
  • Ecosystems of Mount Desert Island (Spring 2012 field study trip)
  • Energy and Materials Sustainability
  • Environmental Law
  • Environmental Assessment Techniques
  • Financial Administration
  • Foundations of Environmental Education
  • Geographic Information System (GIS)Integrated Conservation of Tropical Ecosystems: Costa Rica (Spring 2012, March field study trip)
  • Land Use and Community Planning
  • Making Sense of Place
  • Natural Resource Inventory
  • New England Flora
  • Non Profit Organizations & Social Entrepreneurship
  • Organizing for Social Change
  • Ornithology
  • Principles of Sustainability
  • Program Evaluation for Environmental and Conservation Educators
  • Proposal Writing and Project Management
  • Qualitative and Quantitative Research Design Techniques
  • Research Seminar
  • Soil Ecology
  • Soils Mapping and Interpretation
  • Vertebrate Ecology: Mammalogy
  • Wetlands Ecology
  • Wildlife & Forest Management

Barbara BeersBarbara Beers FA08

After over 25 years of teaching science on the high school level I made the decision to enter a Master’s program to both recharge myself and develop new skills in order to engage my students in more sophisticated and authentic environmental work. I have found that students will more readily immerse themselves in projects that are directly connected to their community and so my goal is to create partnerships between students and local environmental groups. My work at Antioch involves taking courses that build skills in conservation biology (courses such as Ornithology, Field Entomology, Wetlands Flora, and Natural Resource Inventory-Wildlife) while designing my own supervised independent studies (SIS) and practica. The SIS courses will serve to build relationships within the community in which I teach and the practica will allow me to develop curriculum and work with my students as well as other teachers and students within our school district.

Emily Beck FA08

Ecological Literacy: My program places a dual emphasis on scientific research and data collection along with classes about education methods. My experience as a high school science teacher has taught me that I need to continue to expand my technical knowledge. I am always looking for ways to have my students do “real” scientific experiments and collect data that is of use to the scientific community. Upon the completion of my Master’s, I would like to have technical knowledge to help develop scientifically rigorous curricula that will serve as resources for classroom teachers. I designed my studies in Ecological Literacy to allow me to take advantage of offerings in both the Environmental Education and the Conservation Biology programs, in keeping with my two professional goals of bringing non-formal, experiential environmental education to high school students and of becoming a resource teacher for high school science teachers.

Sarah Stoner-DuncanSarah Stoner-Duncan FA08

My program in conservation education links concepts and methods from environmental education to conservation biology research. My program includes taking courses such as Conservation Biology, Foundations of Environmental Education, Human dimensions in Conservation Biology, and Conservation Psychology. Through these courses, I will gain a background in both disciplines and be able to synthesize them for future work. My main interests are in community centered conservation and place-based education. I believe that by involving communities in the conservation research surrounding them, this can help create awareness and concern about land stewardship and the importance of biodiversity. I am especially interested in working on conservation education issues in the tropics.

Nathaniel F. HoagNathaniel F. Hoag FA06: Environmental Media Arts

Environmental Media Arts is a program designed to develop knowledge and skills to deliver environmental concepts through multimedia presentations. With greater accessibility of information and technology have come new opportunities as well as great challenges. How can we harness new technologies to bring environmental messages to a wider audience? How can we present complex and often difficult messages in ways that inspire positive behavior change? What mix of words, colors, sounds, materials and applications is the most appropriate vehicle to deliver a particular message? How can we entertain an audience in a way that integrates with the crux of our message? What are my own creative voice and process, and how can these enhance a presentation? This program will establish a foundational framework for creating effective presentations that address these fundamental questions while providing skills for working with a variety of media types.

Jessica ZaneJessica Zane FA06: Environmental and Social Sustainability

It is obvious that a great deal must change in the world not only to sustain human survival but the survival of all of earth’s life on which we depend. In our role as environmentalists (as well as our role simply as citizens) we must continue to learn and understand the dysfunctional dynamics of our civilization and, second, act in political, legislative and commercial realms to slow down environmental and social degradation and create a sustainable future.

However, there is a third component as well; creating and supporting a major shift in our own and our culture’s perceptions. It is not enough to understand issues intellectually. Without a deeper, more visceral awareness of ourselves as of the earth, not just on the earth, we run the risk of unconsciously supporting a system that no longer serves us. Furthermore, without an internal sense of our inherent interconnectedness we may often find ourselves overwhelmed, anxious or confused which can lead to loss of hope and paralysis. What we know in our minds must be extended into our bodies, our spirits and our hearts in order to remain firmly grounded amid the whirlwind of change that must happen in this century. Making this shift on a personal level not only helps us sustain our individual work. It also gives us the tools to help others make the shift- others who are still frightened of the future, in denial, or just don’t know what they can do.

I chose AUNE’s Self-Designed Studies as a means to combine my passionate interest in environmental and social sustainability via inquiries primarily in the fields of environmental studies, psychology, and sociology. After graduating I plan to pursue two tracks. One will be ongoing writings which I hope publish and the other will be offering educational courses. My goal is to utilize these dual pursuits as a means of further impacting the paradigm shift that I believe must occur to insure a healthy future for all creatures on this little blue-green planet we call home.

Carrie Slone FA06: Watershed Management

This program is designed to prepare an individual with the skills, techniques and knowledge needed to assess watersheds, delineate wetlands and be familiar with other overlapping work associated with watershed assessments and wetland delineations. The program also allows for the expansion of knowledge in various animal and plant identification skills. Management practices are exercised in both class work and in the field. Upon completion of this program one should feel confident enough to apply for watershed management positions and other biological related positions that require good management practice skills and techniques associated with the science field.

Shauna LittleShauna Little FA06: Environmental Geoscience

My Self-Designed study in Environmental Geoscience is intended to build connections between my background in physical science and my interest in humanities disciplines. The intention is to enable whole systems thinking, being able to approach complex environmental issues from all the enumerable facets in which they are created. Through this program, I hope to explore environmental interpretation from both a scientific and a cultural perspective, integrating ecology, geomorphology and cultural history in the context of landscape characterization. My exploration site, a state reservation, has not only epochs of geologic and ecologic history, but rich human stories and heritage as well. By integrating the environmental history, policy, literature and art with the physical conditions of land, water and life at this site, I will create a binding sense of place, by which I can encourage others to do the same. In this program scientist, philosopher, and artist can all be recognized simultaneously and not isolated to their respective disciplines, bringing together what I believe is the true nature of environmental studies and my hope for future work and study.

Kristin JonesKristin Jones FA06: Urban Environmental Stewardship

Urban environmental stewardship (UES) promotes a connection between the disenfranchised population of my home town, Los Angeles, with the wealth and wastefulness of an industry I worked in as a set dresser for 25 years, the Los Angeles film industry. Combining this specific program of study with my set building experience will prepare me to re-enter Hollywood from a very different and useful angle; as a steward. I can entrench myself back into the film world and not only encourage, but challenge the six most profitable film studios of Los Angeles to put their money where their mouth is, and allocate re-usable material goods (i.e. lumber used in film sets) to be reclaimed by others at a greatly reduced cost rather than throwing the materials away. My purpose is to promote and broaden the strategies used by these environmental departments on film lots, to actively participate in giving back to our fair city through re-distribution of equitable used goods, to groups such as Habitat for Humanity, local churches, local schools and theaters.
View Kristin Jones’ course plan. Send an email to Kristen.

Listen to Amy

Amy Borgia FA06: Green Marketing

Marketing can be an extremely powerful tool for educating the public about earth system science, creating awareness of environmental issues and eliciting change in behavior towards the environment. The goal in producing environmental marketing materials is to provide or strengthen the public’s environmental knowledge base, foster an empathic attitude towards the environment, and motivate people to develop ecologically sustainable habits within their daily routines. An environmental marketer uses various media to communicate the basic ecological principles which drive planetary systems, describe the environmental problems which threaten the proper function of these systems, and convey the ways in which human activity impacts the planet. This program unites the use of marketing concepts with the process of environmental education in order to bring about change in the public’s perception of the environment.

Craig Cimmons FA05: Sustainable Recreation

I am focusing on a place-based education while applying it to the Adventure Recreation Field. There is a large gap between recreation organizations and the preservation of the natural world they use. The three areas I intend to study are Ecological Literacy, to increase my knowledge of place; Environmental Education so I have a solid ability to teach others sustainable practices; and Business Skills to increase my ability to run an environmentally and economically sustainable operation.

Bonnie HudspethBonnie Hudspeth FA06: Environmental Advocacy and Journalism

I came to the Individualized Program with the desire to gain experience in a variety of fields: Conservation Biology, Writing and Communications, and Community Advocacy and Organizing. This program offers me the focus of specialized disciplines with the incorporation of transdisciplinary approaches. My Conservation Biology courses form an excellent scientific foundation, and my writing and advocacy classes help me bring conservation initiatives into the broader community. The focus of my program is to merge the disciplines of environmental research, writing, and community advocacy and outreach to facilitate the formation of efficient and sustainable communities. I seek to transform complex scientific research into accessible writing to engage people to care for the environment. I intend to use environmental communication through both writing and direct outreach, both on smaller, localized and on larger, more extensive scales, to engage citizens in stewardship initiatives. Conserving our environment begins with knowledge that connects both individuals and communities to their environment-not just people who consider themselves naturalists or scientists, but the general public who does not regularly receive adequate information to make informed decisions.
View Bonnie Hudspeth’s course plan.

Annie JacobsAnnie Jacobs FA06: Environmental Writing and Creative Arts

With a background in environmental work and a tendency toward the creative arts and writing, I wanted a graduate program where I could discover fresh ways to communicate environmental information. At Antioch, I chose course work and projects that would support both my scientific literacy and creative development.

For instance, in New England Flora, I studied plant communities by learning not only Latin names and taxonomy, but also through drawing and reflective writing. In Conservation Biology, I interpreted scientific literature on migratory shorebirds in a popularstyle article infused with personal anecdote. In The Language of Nature, I narrated a personal story through a movement performance in class. I gained writing skills through courses such as Environmental Writing and Writing for the Real World. I also chose electives in the Education Department to aid me in effective communication and interpretation for all ages.

My practica immersed me in the worlds of literature, publishing, editing, and writing about science for diverse audiences: I edited Whole Terrain, Antioch’s literary journal of reflective environmental practice; and I wrote for newspaper and web site about The ES department’s Mount Monadnock Ecological Research and Education (MERE) Project. In my Master’s Project, I will combine creative writing and visual art.

I am fortunate to have been able to grow my passions and skills in such diverse communications media as technical writing, poetry, personal essay writing, visual art, and performance. Thank you, Antioch, for making it possible!

View Annie Jacob’s course plan.

Jill R. Rolph FA06: Endangered Species Management and Biological Conservation

My Master of Science program in Environmental Studies focuses on combining scientific research with community-based conservation, education and outreach. Habitat destruction, pollution, human exploitation, unintentional mortality, and the introduction of exotic species have contributed to widespread population declines of threatened and endangered species. People are deeply interconnected with wildlife and play a significant role in the survival of a species. Understanding how people perceive and interact with wildlife is the first step in developing management strategies that humans can accept and wildlife can live with. I believe that governments, non-profit organizations, and local people can work together to protect threatened and endangered species. My research interests include sea turtle conservation and management, New England migratory bird conservation, multicultural environmental education, human environment interactions, environmental exhibit design, international networking and communications, tropical ecology and conservation, and the sustainable use of tropical ecosystems.

Randy Russell FA06: Materials Management & Sustainability Science

Material Management & Sustainability Science combines analyzing existing material flows throughout the home, business, and community and applying sustainability assessments to produce an economically and environmentally advantageous solution for improvement. Additionally, this program fosters elements of communication through oral, written, and cinematic media as a means of conveyance, education, and advocacy.

Maggie Shar FA06: Environmental Social Justice Education

My learning goals involve acquiring the skills necessary to work for, or begin a program that fosters empowerment, and raises awareness about social justice issues as they relate to society and the natural world, through the medium of environmental education. This goal is multilayered and requires a varied range of course work. First, I would like to acquire a basic understanding of natural systems so that I will have more knowledge to share. This will be accomplished through the foundation course work combined with my recent experiential learning from the Audubon Expedition Institute. Secondly, I feel it is important to engage in self exploration regarding my own prejudices, and internalized racism, sexism, classism etc. as they relate to organizations, advocacy and education so that I can work towards not perpetuating disempowering patterns in my field. I will do this work on my own as well as through my core courses of Diversity and Coalition Building, as well as Building Sustainable Organizations. Thirdly, I would like to combine my past and current experience in education with course work to acquire further education skills. I am particularly interested in learning environmental and experiential teaching methods that are creative, empowering and have the potential to raise social justice awareness. I will gain additional experience through my employment and practica, which will take place in relevant fields.

Richard Wagner FA06: Public Understanding of Earth Systems

Much of the current political and public discourse concerning environmental issues focuses on single topics: global warming, ocean pollution, groundwater contamination, air quality, soil erosiontake your pick. While understandable and perhaps necessary in the arena of public policy, this fracturing of issues tends to blur rather than sharpen the idea of planet Earth and the life thereon as the expression of a tightly bound network of systems. We may know the trees, but have lost the forest. While a knowledge of Earth systems may not be necessary to follow environmental discourse, an understanding of the various components of Earth systems and their interactions can only lead to a deeper appreciation and understanding of any current environmental issue and, perhaps more important, a clearer understanding of how a specific issue may play out over time.

To communicate science to the public at large you must first capture the attention of the consumer and then deliver your information. Earth systems science is no small package in the back of the delivery truckit is intimidating in its complexity and scope. That said, many of us are surrounded by technologies that we find intimidating or beyond our reach, yet we use and understand them with some confidence because we have at hand the ubiquitous User’s Manual, repository of concise information and troubleshooting tips. Employing the metaphor of a User’s Manual for its casual familiarity, organizational structure, and inherent playfulness, I hope to present Earth systems to a public audience in a manner that is informative and enjoyable.

Students may find themselves at the Teton Science School designing and delivering undergraduate educational experiences in field-based research or place-based learning. Some find their way to the Bronx Zoo in New York City or the New England Aquarium, designing conservation curricula, developing interactive exhibits, or facilitating educational programs for youth and adults. Some work in organizations dedicated to making school food healthier and more sustainable or creating local gardens in the community to supply food for the educational facilities. Others are integrating environmental science into outdoor adventure programming or assessing the sustainability of school campuses. Still others work in community non-profits, city municipalities, or private businesses to enhance their sustainability efforts through effective education and communication strategies.

The following represent some of the recent internship sites of students in the Environmental Education program:

  • Audubon International: Assisted in the Audubon certification of Baker Hill Golf Club in Newbury, NH, including wildlife and habitat management, integrated pest management, water conservation, outreach, and education
  • Grafton Nature Center, Grafton, VT: Designed and implemented environmental education curriculum focused on watersheds
  • Lake Sunapee Protective Association, Sunapee, NH: As Watershed Protection assistant, assisted water quality restoration projects, prepared environmental education materials, and answered local citizen’s questions about the watershed
  • Living on Earth, Somerville, MA: Researched, produced, and edited weekly environmental issues show on public radio
  • National Environmental Education and Training Foundation, Washington, DC: Provided upcoming program support including a new page on the Classroom Earth website and a new educational partnership with NOAA
  • New England Wildflower Society, Framingham, MA: Assisted in teaching second and fourth grade public school classrooms about local flora
  • Pitcher Mountain Community Supported Agriculture, Keene, NH: Worked on the CSA farm including planting, harvesting, watering, and building raised beds
  • Seeds of Solidarity, Orange, MA: Developed and taught a garden program for teenagers, developed a handbook for local schools on how to create and maintain school gardens
  • Stonewall Farm, Keene, NH: Environmental educator for grades PreK-6, led classes including wildlife in winter, ice harvesting, and maple sugaring
  • Tanglewood 4H Camp and Learning Center, Lincolnville, ME: Coordinated and trained summer staff, developed environmental education curriculum, coordinated and taught day camp program
  • Ashuelot Valley Environmental Observatory, Keene, NH-Designed and co-facilitated educational workshops relating to citizen science initiatives
  • Vermont Youth Conservation Corps, Waterbury, VT: Developed and led youth conservation crew experiences, designed and implemented a plan for a pilot AmeriCorps program at the VYCC
  • Wildlife Conservation Society, Bronx, NY: Exhibit design and interpretation projects at the Bronx Zoo; researched and evaluated existing exhibits at the zoo
  • Conservation Psychology Network/Antioch Environmental Studies Department, Keene, NH: Created book prospectus, including sample activities, for conservation psychology activity book for use by formal and nonformal educators to teach and apply principles of this growing field
  • Whole Terrain, student editor, Keene, NH: solicited authors and crafted Antioch University New England’s journal of reflective environmental practice from “zero to press”
  • Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies, Millbrook, NY: Completed research interview process with children to gain a deeper understanding of ecoliteracy
  • Cool Monadnock (Partnership between Antioch New England Institute & Clean Air Cool Planet), Keene, NH: Collected energy and fuel data for municipality’s buildings to create town greenhouse gas inventory reports. Created communications plan for Cool Monadnock Neighbors Helping Neighbors program
  • Student Conservation Association, Seattle, WA: Served as crew leader for high school students doing trail work at Mt. Rainier National Park
  • U.S. Partnership for Education for Sustainable Development: Worked with president on wide-variety of projects, ranging from marketing and writing articles to fundraising efforts and web creation to support creation of this international organization.
  • Life Is Good Company, Hudson, NH: Designed educational programs on site to enhance sustainability efforts
  • International Crane Foundation, Baraboo, WI: Developed and led interpretive tours and programs associated with crane exhibits, nature trails, ecological restoration, and other site features

In addition to crafting an individualized course of study, students in this program seek to tailor course assignments to meet their program goals:

  • In Conservation Communications, learning was verified in a field course on Amphibians by writing and illustrating a children’s book.
  • In Community-Based Environmentalism, research was conducted on a project for the City of Keene, NH to survey local attitudes regarding land use issues and sustainability.
  • In The Chemistry of Toxic Use Reduction, research was conducted for a Master’s Thesis on The Sono-electrocoagulation of Wool Scouring Effluent.
  • In Environmental Communications learning was exhibited in Environmental Interpretation by creating an exhibit for a pedestrian bridge over the Connecticut River about the changing landscape over the last 13,000 years.

A Special Project or Master’s Thesis is required for completion of the Individualized Program. This project is intended to serve as a capstone course for the program, an opportunity for the student to demonstrate their specialized skills in an applied format.

The diverse career paths of graduates from Self-Designed Studies reflect the unique goals of these students. Many students use the program to develop skills and expertise to advance existing careers through the development of an environmental specialty. Other students use the program to empower their environmental work with specialized skills in organizational administration, communications or field sciences. Graduates of the program are employed in every sector of environmental work, from private consulting and regulatory enforcement to education, advocacy and the arts.

Admission to the Self-Designed Studies concentration is limited to a select group of students and a detailed proposal is required along with the application. Applicants should review and complete the entire process below.

1. Apply online or download the primary application materials here.
2. Submit the following supplemental documents to the Antioch University New England  Admissions Office along with your other required application materials:

  1. A statement (1-2 pages)that describes your academic and professional goals for matriculating in the SDS concentration in the ES Department. Address the following questions:
    • What do you hope to accomplish with graduate work in Self-Designed Studies in the ES Department at Antioch New England?
    • How have you arrived at this point in your career and/or studies?
    • Why is the SDS concentration in the ES Department the best place for you to accomplish your academic, professional, and personal goals?
  2. A semester-by-semester course plan that details the courses you wish to take over the course of five semesters in the SDS concentration. Archived and current course listings may be found here.

Please contact the Director of Self-Designed Studies, Joy Ackerman, with questions and inquiries.