Environmental Social Science (Urbanism), PHD

At a Glance: program details

Are you interested in focusing on the social dynamics of environmental issues? This transdisciplinary program combines methods and theories of planning, geography, anthropology, political economy and more. Through this approach, you will gain a better understanding of human impacts on the environment and develop sustainable environmental practices to reduce them.

ASU is not currently accepting applications for this program.

Program Description

Degree Awarded: PHD Environmental Social Science (Urbanism)

The PhD in environmental social science is one of the few doctoral degree programs in the U.S. that draws on the premise that reducing human impacts and developing more sustainable environmental practices will be difficult to achieve, if not impossible, without a focus on the social dynamics of environmental issues using critical social science perspectives.

The program is organized around theoretically based conceptual domains:

  • culture and the environment
  • environmental hazards and vulnerability
  • environmental justice
  • human environment impacts
  • political ecology
  • science and technology studies

These are the bases for addressing various topical foci, including urban environments, technologies and their consequences, landscapes, institutions, and health and the environment.

Students work with faculty who have expertise in a broad range of fields including:

  • archaeology
  • community resources
  • cultural and medical anthropology
  • demography
  • environmental history
  • geographic information systems
  • human and physical geography
  • planning
  • public affairs
  • science and technology studies
  • sociology

The program trains students to move into teaching and research positions or to assume leadership roles in government, industry or in nongovernmental organizations.

Coursework for the degree is focused on developing real-world skills and a solid grasp of complex social science approaches to environmental issues. Students work closely with their committee to develop a curriculum appropriate to their chosen interests and career goals.

The concentration in urbanism leverages the varied interests in urbanism and helps emerging scholars as they attempt to compare, contrast and take stock of urbanism. Working with faculty from across a range of departments and programs at ASU, doctoral students are able to capture the creative tensions that scholarship on urbanism has inspired in order to stimulate a provocative, constructive kind of inquiry.

Degree Requirements

Curriculum Plan Options

  • 84 credit hours, a written comprehensive exam, an oral comprehensive exam, a prospectus and a dissertation

Students entering with a master's degree in a related field may be granted up to 30 credit hours toward the 84 credit hour total required for the doctorate. This leaves 30 credit hours of coursework, 12 credit hours of research and 12 credit hours of dissertation (54 credit hours total) to be earned post admission.

Students entering without a master's degree must earn an additional 30 credit hours of graduate coursework, produce a research portfolio which is formally evaluated by a faculty committee, and present that research in a public forum before continuing on in the later stage of the doctorate degree program.

All students must maintain an average GPA of 3.20 in their courses and complete degree requirements per the program's satisfactory progress policy.

All students entering the program complete 18 credit hours of core classes in conceptual domains and topical foci. For the concentration in urbanism, 15 credit hours are to be selected from an approved list of applicable courses related to urbanism. Some of the environmental social science core courses also count toward the concentration in urbanism. These courses include the core urbanism course GCU 516 as well as one course from each of the four urbanism clusters: built form, culture and society, institutions and governance, and natural environment.

Additional credit hours come from courses in research design, technical expertise and electives. Students may select from a substantial range of courses to satisfy noncore requirements.

Admission Requirements

Applicants must fulfill the requirements of both the Graduate College and The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

Applicants are eligible to apply to the program if they have earned a bachelor's or master's degree from a regionally accredited institution. Undergraduate coursework in the social sciences (e.g., geography, political science, sociology, anthropology, planning or history) is not a prerequisite for admission but is generally advisable. Students may be admitted without such a background and may be required to acquire knowledge of the social sciences in a manner to be specified at the time of admission.

Applicants must have a minimum cumulative GPA of 3.00 (scale is 4.00 = "A") in the last 60 hours of their first bachelor's degree program, or applicants must have a minimum cumulative GPA of 3.00 (scale is 4.00 = "A") in an applicable master's degree program.

All applicants must submit:

  1. graduate admission application and application fee
  2. official transcripts
  3. personal statement outlining educational and professional goals
  4. current curriculum vitae or resume
  5. three letters of recommendation
  6. proof of English proficiency

Additional Application Information
An applicant whose native language is not English must provide proof of English proficiency regardless of their current residency.

Applicants may submit with their application materials an optional scholarly writing sample, not to exceed 30 double-spaced pages.

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Career Opportunities

The demand in the job market is for people with keen thinking skills who can manage, evaluate and interpret large amounts of data. As the many spheres of human interaction expand globally, people with the training of this degree are increasingly sought-after for their broad, holistic knowledge and perspectives. Some career opportunities include:

  • acting as legal advocates in international cases
  • analyzing and proposing policies
  • conducting postgraduate academic research
  • consulting for private and public organizations
  • curating cultural resources
  • directing nonprofit organizations
  • directing programs in the private or public sector
  • managing culture or heritage resources in private or public sectors
  • planning communities
  • teaching

Program Contact Information

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