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Coterminal Master of Arts Program

The Earth Systems Program offers current Stanford University undergraduates the opportunity to apply for admission to a 45-unit coterminal Master of Arts (MA) program in Earth Systems, Environmental Communication. The Earth Systems Master of Arts degree provides an overview of the theory, techniques, and challenges of communicating environmental science and policy concepts to diverse audiences and includes hands-on experience with different modalities of communication including writing, journalism, multimedia production, and informal education. The degree program is built on a set of required Core courses including a weekly seminar, a practicum placement, and a capstone project, enhanced with a range of individually selected Focus courses chosen either to emphasize a particular topic or modality or to provide greater breadth and diversity of study topics within environmental communication. Focus courses are selected in close consultation with the MA Director and a faculty co-adviser.

All Earth Systems Master of Arts students are also required to complete the Earth Systems Core, namely EARTHSYS 10 (may be audited), EARTHSYS 111, and EARTHSYS 112. These courses may be taken concurrently with the MA degree but may not be counted toward the 45 units required for the MA degree. Rarely, additional prerequisites or foundational courses may be required depending on the academic background and intended focus of each student.

Core Courses

Fall Quarter

  • EarthSys 191/291: Introduction to Environmental Communication. Kevin Arrigo and Thomas Hayden. 3 units.
  • EarthSys 292: Multimedia Environmental Communication. Thomas Hayden. 3 units.

Winter Quarter

  • EarthSys/Comm 177C/277C: Science and Environmental Journalism. Thomas Hayden. 4 units
  • EarthSys 290: Earth System’s Master’s Seminar. 2 units.
  • EarthSys 293: Environmental Communication Practicum. Thomas Hayden. 5 units.

Spring Quarter

  • EarthSys 294: Environmental Communication Capstone. Thomas Hayden. 1-5 units.

Focus courses

Focus courses may be selected with an emphasis on writing, multimedia, or teaching, or to provide a broad survey across modalities. Potential focus courses may be included from the journalism and creative writing programs, the Graduate School of Education, and other programs. Possible courses within Earth Systems include EARTHSYS 200, 235 and the Jasper Ridge docent training courses, EARTHSYS 105A and 105B, as well as EARTH 218 and 219.

For further information, please contact the coordinating Adviser, Tom Hayden,  


The application process is the same for both the Master of Arts and the Master of Science in Earth Systems. Applications in 2018-19 are due: November 6, 2018 (to apply for Winter matriculation); February 19, 2019 (to apply for Spring matriculation); and May 14, 2019 (to apply for Autumn 19/20 matriculation). A $125 application fee will be assessed by the Registrar’s office for those accepted and matriculated into the program. To apply, students should submit an online application. The application includes the following:

  • Coterminal application
  • A statement of purpose
  • A resume
  • A current Stanford unofficial transcript
  • Two letters of recommendation, one of which must be from the master's adviser (each coterminal M.A. student has two advisers: Thomas Hayden and Kevin Arrigo, or another approved faculty co-adviser)
  • Master's Program Proposal (M.A.): A list of courses that fulfill degree requirements signed by both master's advisers (Tom Hayden and faculty co-adviser) 
  • Applications must be submitted no later than the quarter prior to the expected completion of the B.S. degree (check with program office for specific application deadline). An application fee is assessed by the Registrar's Office for coterminal applications, once students are matriculated into the program.
  • Students applying to the coterminal master's program must have completed a minimum of 120 units toward graduation with a minimum overall Stanford GPA of 3.4.
  • All applicants must devise a program of study that shows a level of specialization appropriate to the master's level, as determined in consultation with the master's adviser and the Director of Earth Systems.
  • Students applying from an undergraduate major other than Earth Systems should review their undergraduate course list with Tom Hayden (for the M.A. only).  
  • The student has the option of receiving the B.S. degree after completing that degree's requirements or receiving the B.S. and M.A./M.S. degrees concurrently at the completion of the master's program.
  • Students must submit a new application to change from the M.S. to the M.A. in Earth Systems, or from the M.A. to the M.S. in Earth Systems. If accepted, the student must submit a Graduate Authorization Petition through Axess; a $125 fee applies to a successful Graduate Authorization Petition.
  • Application decisions: Applicants will be notified of the admission decision in writing, typically 3-4 weeks after the application deadline. 

University Coterminal Requirements

Coterminal master’s degree candidates are expected to complete all master’s degree requirements as described in the bulletin. University requirements for the coterminal master’s degree are described in the “Coterminal Master’s Program” section. University requirements for the master’s degree are described in the "Graduate Degrees" section of the bulletin. Additonal information can be found at the Registrar's Coterm web page.   

After accepting admission to this coterminal master’s degree program, students may request transfer of courses from the undergraduate to the graduate career to satisfy requirements for the master’s degree. Transfer of courses to the graduate career requires review and approval of both the undergraduate and graduate programs on a case by case basis.

In this master’s program, courses taken during or after the first quarter of the sophomore year are eligible for consideration for transfer to the graduate career; the timing of the first graduate quarter is not a factor. No courses taken prior to the first quarter of the sophomore year may be used to meet master’s degree requirements. Course transfers are not possible after the bachelor’s degree has been conferred. All course transfer requests must be submitted to the Student Services Center no later than the Late Application to Graduate Deadline of the intended bachelor’s degree conferral quarter.

The University requires that the graduate adviser be assigned in the student’s first graduate quarter even though the undergraduate career may still be open. The University also requires that the Master’s Degree Program Proposal be completed by the student and approved by the department by the end of the student’s first graduate quarter.

Degree Requirements

These degree requirements are the same for both the Master of Arts degree and the Master of Science degree in Earth Systems, and must be fulfilled to receive an M.A. degree or M.S. degree in Earth Systems:

  • A minimum of 45 units of course work and/or research credit (upon approval).
  • At least 34 units of the student's course work for the M.A./M.S. must be at the 200-level or above.
  • All remaining course work must be at the 100-level or above.
  • All courses for the M.A. and M.S. degrees must be taken for a letter grade; courses not taken for a letter grade must be approved by the master's adviser and Director of Earth Systems.
  • Transfer courses are not permitted to count towards the coterm.
  • A minimum overall GPA of 3.4 must be maintained.
  • All coterminal master's students are required to take the capstone course, EARTHSYS 290 Master's Seminar.

Learning Outcomes (Graduate)

The coterminal master's degree in Earth Systems provides the student with enhanced analytical tools to evaluate the disciplines most closely associated with the student's focus area. Specialization is gained through course work and independent research work supervised by the master's faculty adviser.