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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.highest standards of academic scholarship.