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Important Information Regarding COVID-19

In light of the University’s newly released policy regarding COVID-19 -- recommending the community minimize social contact -- we encourage students to utilize virtual options when seeking support or information from the Earth Systems Program. Please contact staff via email or phone and we will be happy to assist! Latest information about the University's response to COVID-19 can be found here:

Coterminal Master of Arts Program

Coterminal Master of Arts Program

The Earth Systems Program offers current Stanford undergraduates the opportunity to apply for admission to a coterminal Master of Arts (M.A.) program in Earth Systems, Environmental Communication. This Earth Systems Master of Arts degree provides an overview of the theory, techniques, and challenges of communicating about environmental science, policy, and ethics with diverse audiences. Students have the opportunity to gain hands-on experience with a range of communication modalities including writing and journalism, multimedia production, policy and strategic communications, and environmental and informal education.

The degree program is built on a set of seven required core courses, which include a weekly seminar, a practicum placement, and an independent capstone project. These Core requirements are enhanced with individual selections from a range of Focus and Elective courses chosen either to emphasize a particular topic or modality or to provide greater breadth and diversity of study topics within environmental communication. At least 34 units of the 45 total required for the M.A. degree should be at the 200 level or above.

Each student in the Earth Systems Master of Arts, Environmental Communication, program has two academic advisors: the Director of the M.A. program and a faculty co-advisor. The faculty co-advisor is an Academic Council member selected by the student in consultation with the M.A. director.

Earth Systems M.A. students complete a minimum of 45 units for the degree, including 22 units of required core courses, a minimum of 10 units of approved focus courses, and up to 13 units of elective courses, to be selected in close consultation with the M.A. director and the faculty co-adviser. At least 34 units of the student’s coursework must be at the 200-level or above. Students may include up to 9 units total of directed research or independent study, including the required EARTHSYS 294 Environmental Communication Capstone units.

Students may apply to the Earth Systems Master of Arts, Environmental Communication degree from any undergraduate major. However, all admitted students are also required to complete the Earth Systems Core, i.e., EARTHSYS 10 Introduction to Earth Systems, EARTHSYS 111 Biology and Global Change, and EARTHSYS 112 Human Society and Environmental Change. These courses may be taken concurrently with the M.A. degree but may not be counted toward the 45 units required for the M.A. degree. In consultation with the M.A. Director, these courses may be actively audited rather than taken for credit. Rarely, additional prerequisites or foundational courses may be required depending on the academic background and intended focus of each student, to be determined in consultation with the M.A. director, faculty co-adviser, and the Director of Earth Systems

Students interested in applying to the Earth Systems Master of Arts, Environmental Communication should contact the M.A. director, Thomas Hayden (

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, with the exception of ENGLISH 91 and ENGLISH 191.
  • All courses for the M.A. and M.S. degrees must be taken for a letter grade when that option exists; courses not taken for a letter grade must be approved by the M.A. Director and Director of Earth Systems.
  • Transfer courses from other institutions are not permitted to count towards the master’s degree.
  • A minimum overall GPA of 3.4 must be maintained.
  • All Earth Systems coterminal master's students are required to take the Master’s Seminar, EARTHSYS 290 Master's Seminar. All Earth Systems M.A. students are required to take EARTHSYS 295 Environmental Communication Seminar.

Learning Outcomes (Graduate)

The coterminal master's degree in Earth Systems, Environmental Communication provides the student with enhanced theoretical frameworks, analytical tools, and applied skills in various domains of environmental communication. Specialization is gained through courses, independent project work, and a professional practicum placement, supervised by the Earth Systems M.A. director and the faculty co-advisor

Core Courses

Core courses are intended to give students a solid foundation in environmental communication theory and practice and exposure to the broad range of research and the variety of disciplines, approaches, genres, and expressions in environmental communication.

Environmental Communication Core Courses

Course List

Autumn Quarter 

  • EARTHSYS 291 Concepts in Environmental Communication 3
  • EARTHSYS 292 Multimedia Environmental Communication 3
  • EARTHSYS 295 Environmental Communication Seminar (must be taken twice for credit) 1

Winter Quarter

  • EARTHSYS 290 Master's Seminar 2
  • EARTHSYS 277C Specialized Writing and Reporting: Health and Science Journalism 4-5

Spring Quarter

  • EARTHSYS 295 Environmental Communication Seminar (must be taken twice for credit) 1

Autumn, Winter, or Spring

  • EARTHSYS 293 Environmental Communication Practicum 1-5 (A professional placement to be completed in any quarter, including summer, or over two or more quarters. No class meetings.)
  • EARTHSYS 294 Environmental Communication Capstone 1-5 (An independent project, usually completed in the final or penultimate quarter of degree progress. No class meetings.)

Focus courses

Focus courses are communication-specific courses that contribute to students’ intended focus for the M.A. degree. Each student should select 10 units or more of focus courses. The following list includes pre-approved focus courses across a number of disciplines. Many other courses will also qualify as Focus courses, depending on the individual student’s goals and with the approval of the M.A. director. These include many courses offered by the Graduate School of Education (EDUC), the Department of Communication (COMM), and the Sustainability Science and Practice Program (SUST). 

Environmental Communication Focus Courses

Course List
Autumn Quarter

  • EARTHSYS 194 Topics in Writing & Rhetoric: Introduction to Environmental Justice: Race, Class, Gender and Place 4
  • COMM 208 Media Processes and Effects 4-5
  • COMM 225 Perspectives on American Journalism 4-5
  • GSBGEN 515 Essentials of Strategic Communication 2

Winter Quarter

  • EARTHSYS 105A Ecology and Natural History of Jasper Ridge Biological Preserve 4
  • EARTHSYS 243 Environmental Advocacy and Policy Communication 3
  • ENVRES 245 Psychological Insights for Science Communication 2-3
  • COMM 264 The Psychology of Communication About Politics in America 4-5
  • EDUC 357 Science and Environmental Education in Informal Contexts 3-4
  • GSBGEN 315 Strategic Communication 2-4
    or GSBGEN 515 Essentials of Strategic Communication

Spring Quarter

  • EARTHSYS 249 Wild Writing 3
  • EARTHSYS 286 Farm and Garden Environmental Education Practicum 2
  • EDUC 332 Theory and Practice of Environmental Education 3
  • COMM 276 Advanced Digital Media Production 4-5
  • EARTHSYS 105B Ecology and Natural History of Jasper Ridge Biological Preserve 4
  • EARTH 251 Negotiation 3
  • GSBGEN 315 Strategic Communication 2-4
    or GSBGEN 515 Essentials of Strategic Communication

Elective Courses

Some Earth Systems M.A. students build a course plan exclusively out of core and focus courses. However, environmental communication is a broad and inherently interdisciplinary field and students come to the M.A. with a wide diversity of backgrounds and goals. Students may select other courses from across campus to fill out their 45-unit degree requirement. These elective courses may be chosen to deepen knowledge about specific environmental topics, for example environmental science, policy, ethics, or history courses; to increase breadth or specialization in areas of communication practice or theory; or to add diversity to the student’s overall graduate experience.

Some examples of potential elective courses include the Jasper Ridge docent-training series (EARTHSYS 105A and EARTHSYS 105B, crosslisted as BIO 105A and BIO 105B), the English Department’s Creative Nonfiction series (ENGLISH 91 and ENGLISH 191 Intermediate Creative Nonfiction), courses in Art Practice (ARTSTUDI) or Theater and Performance Studies (TAPS), courses associated with the Stanford Storytelling Project and the, and a wide variety of the courses offered by Earth Systems (EARTHSYS), the Emmett Interdisciplinary Program in Environment and Resources (ENVRES), Earth System Science (ESS), Stanford Earth (EARTH), Human Biology (HUMBIO), and other associated departments and programs.

Elective courses can be selected from virtually any Stanford department or program, pending permission to enroll and a strong case for including the course in an individual student’s cohesive degree plan. All electives must be approved by the M.A. director.


The application process is the same for both the Master of Arts and the Master of Science in Earth Systems. Applications in 2019-20 are due:

November 5, 2019 to apply for Winter 2020 matriculation
February 18, 2020 to apply for Spring 2020 matriculation
May 12, 2020 to apply for Autumn 2020-21 matriculation

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 from the M.A. Director (Thomas Hayden) and one from an undergraduate advisor or the proposed master’s faculty co-advisor.
  • MA Program Proposal A list of courses that fulfill degree requirements signed by both the M.A. director (Thomas Hayden) and the proposed faculty co-adviser. 

Applications must be submitted no later than the quarter prior to the expected completion of the undergraduate degree. The specific application deadline for each quarter is listed above, or can be obtained from the Earth Systems Program office. 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 M.A. director and the Director of Earth Systems.
  • Students applying from an undergraduate major other than Earth Systems should also review their undergraduate course list with the M.A. director.  
  • Coterminal master’s students have the option of receiving their undergraduate degree after completing that degree's requirements or receiving their undergraduate and M.A. 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., 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.

Applicants will be notified of the admission decision in writing, typically 3-4 weeks after the application deadline. A $125 application fee will be assessed by the Registrar’s office for those accepted and matriculated into the program. 

University Coterminal Requirements

Coterminal master’s degree candidates are expected to complete all master’s degree requirements as described in this 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 this bulletin.

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.

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.

Alumni Directory by Julia Goolsby M.A. '20 (work in progress)