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Master’s in Community Climate Adaptation

students
students

The Community Climate Adaptation MS degree program is a collaborative, research-based, joint-degree program offered through WPI’s Department of Integrative & Global Studies (DIGS) and the Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering (CEE). Students in the program will work within teams to use engineering, social science, and physical and biological science skills and expertise to address challenges of climate change impacts and capacities to adapt in communities around the world.

Climate change is one of the Global Grand Challenges of our time. This problem doesn’t separate well into silos; rather, climate change is perhaps best understood as an intensifier of a great number of existing problems. Communities from Worcester to Cape Town, and from Melbourne to Venice, are developing plans to help protect people and infrastructure from the impacts of a changing climate.

From the Indian Himalaya to the Arabian deserts and from Icelandic glaciers to the Costa Rican cloud forest, the changing climate impacts each corner of the globe and is expanding many familiar community challenges to a scope and intensity unprecedented in historic memory.

students walking through a field

Research

Research in the Community Climate Adaptation MS will involve teams of students who are situated at fieldwork sites in communities around the world. Students who will thrive in this program might come from technical or nontechnical backgrounds, and those with a wide range of academic and practical experience will bring their own expertise and perspectives to these collaborative projects.

One-third of the credits in this graduate program will be earned with the team-based Graduate Qualifying Project (GQP) in which small groups of students engage with the global “Grand Challenge” of climate change through the collaborative study of a specific topical theme that they examine with global scope and local implications. This transdisciplinary approach to community climate adaptation means that the research emphasis could range from water systems management, global health, or energy systems, to sustainable agriculture or collaborative resource or hazards management.

Program Highlights

A Team-based Approach

As rapid global environmental change continues to have substantive effects worldwide, governments and civil society organizations need professionals who can address the technical, cultural, socioeconomic, and policy issues related to climate adaptation in a comprehensive and collaborative manner. Students from varied backgrounds and disciplines will build upon their knowledge together with faculty advisors and community partners connected with the resources, environment, climate, and people in a community or region.

Using WPI’s distinctive interdisciplinary, project-based educational approach, teams will develop place-based adaptation and mitigation strategies for climate change and engage in work that aligns with the UN Sustainable Development Goals in service of positive impacts at the local scale.

Career Opportunities

The specific program emphasis on Community Climate Adaptation supports  graduates in acquiring theory and practice for jobs with NGOs, local/state governments, and other institutions or businesses. Today’s communities must respond to actual and projected problems of infrastructure inadequacy; potential loss of land and economic assets; water resource and water quality impacts; differential health and social impacts; extreme weather events; coordination with multiple agencies; and compliance with local/state/federal policy decisions, as they navigate the environmental, policy, and built-environment constraints imposed by the reality of climate change.

Addressing such problems will require innovative thinking about the technical, social-cultural, and economic dimensions of both problems and solutions, and this program is specifically designed to produce professionals trained for this 21st century career.

Global Collaboration

Students in the Community Climate Adaptation master’s degree program will complete a minimum of 20 coursework credits and a 10-credit Graduate Qualifying Project (GQP) where they will partner with students, faculty, and community participants. The GQP offers an intensive project experience with breadth and depth across disciplines, sectors, and scale. Teams will collaborate with and work within communities and will be matched to amplify the collective team expertise and regional connections.

Curriculum

The Community Climate Adaptation program requires three semesters with an option of one summer to complete. Students will take a minimum of 30 credit hours, of which 10 credit hours will be the GQP. Current WPI students may look into a BS/MS program option to gain both degrees in an accelerated plan.

Basic Academic Program:

Orientation: non-credit team-building activities during first semester to develop shared language and basic skills

Semester 1: 11 credits in 3 Core Areas: Theory, Methods, and Climate Essentials
Semester 2 (plus optional summer/break): 8 credits of GQP
Semester 3: 11 credits

3 credits of Core Area (Comparative Climate Action Capstone)
2 credits of GQP
6 credits (minimum) of electives

Core Courses (11 credits in first semester; 3 credits in third semester)

  • IGS 501 Seminar: Theorizing Place, Community, and Global Environmental Change (3 credits)
  • IGS 505 Qualitative Methods for Community-Engaged Research (2 credits)
  • CEE 4071 Land Use, Development, and Controls (2 credits)
  • CEE 575 Climate and the Earth System (2 credits)
  • IGS 510 Human Dimensions of Global Environmental Change (2 credits)
  • IGS 590 Capstone Seminar: Comparative Climate Action (3 credits)
  • Collaboration for a Better World: Global School/DIGS Speaker Series

GQP Credits (10 credits, second semester)

  • IGS 595, 8 credits in second semester of field placement at a project center, with possible extension into summer.
  • IGS 599, 2 credits of project work/writing in third semester.

Elective Courses (minimum 6 credits: two courses each in third semester or in first semester if other requirements are already met).

  • IGS 545 Climate Change: Vulnerability and Mitigation (2 credits)
  • CE 4061 Hydrology (2 credits)
  • CE 402X Resilient Infrastructure for a Changing Climate (2 credits)
  • CE/CHE 4063. Transport & Transformations in the Environment (2 credits) 
  • CE 542 Geohydrology (3 credits)
  • CE 560 Advanced Principles of Water Treatment (3 credits)
  • CE 561 Advanced Principles of Wastewater Treatment (3 credits)
  • CE 562 Biosystems in Environmental Engineering (3 credits)
  • CE 563 Industrial Waste Treatment (3 credits)
  • CE 565 Surface Water Quality Modeling (3 credits)
  • CE 566 Groundwater Flow and Pollution (3 credits)
  • CE 567 Hazardous Waste: Containment, Treatment and Prevention (3 credits)
  • CE 570 Contaminant Fate and Transport (3 credits)
  • CE 571 Water Chemistry (3 credits)
  • CE 572 Physical and Chemical Treatment (3 credits)
  • CE 573 Treatment System Hydraulics (3 credits)
  • CE 574 Water Resources Management (3 credits)
  • STS 4000 Senior seminar in Global Public Health (2 credits)
  • BUS 547 Energy Management. (3 credits)
  • OBC 505 Teaming and Organizing for Innovation. (3 credits)
  • OIE 542 Risk Management and Decision Analysis. (3 credits)
  • ME/AE 5105 Renewable Energy (2 credits)
  • SD 550 System Dynamics Foundation: Managing Complexity (3 credits)
  • SD 551 Modeling and Experimental Analysis of Complex Problems (3 credits)
  • SD 561 Energy and Environmental Dynamics (3 credits)
  • SYS 501 Concepts of Systems Engineering (3 credits)
  • SYS 540 Introduction to Systems Thinking (3 credits)

Additional electives may be available; please consult the program directors to develop a course plan.

MS in Community Climate Adaptation

This is a joint program of the Department of Integrative & Global Studies and the Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering.

Fall

Spring & Summer

Fall

Orientation:
Shared Language
and Tools Non-credit
 

Seminar:
Global/Local Theory:
IGS 501
(3 credits)
 

Methods:
IGS 505:
CE 4071
(2 credits each)

Climate Essentials:
IGS 510:
CE 575
(2 credits each)

GQP: EXTENDED
RESEARCH/PROJECT
IGS 595 (8 credits)
 

GA/IQP
 

Skills Acquisition:
Language, methods


Online Cohort Discussion

 




 

 

Capstone:
IGS 590
Comparative 
Climate Action
(3 credits)

GQP Conference:
IGS 599
(2 credits)

2 Electives:
Topical, Method
or Area
(minimum 6 credits)




 

Faculty Profiles

Jeanine Dudle, Program Director

Jeanine Denu Dudle

Jeanine D. Dudle

Associate Professor- Civil & Environmental Engineering

My teaching and research interests focus on water quality and the safety of drinking waters. I study water from source to tap: where do contaminants originate from, what is their fate in the environment, and how do we engineer treatment processes to protect public health? I am particularly interested in preventing the transmission of pathogens through water. In source waters, I aim to identify sources of pollution and understand the fate, transport, and survival of those pollutants in the environment.

Sarah Strauss, Program Director

Sarah  Strauss

Sarah Strauss

Professor

Sarah Strauss was born and raised on the east coast. During high school and college, she was deeply involved in biomedical research, and expected her career path to lie in this direction. She enjoyed the philosophical traditions, though, and so although she worked in molecular biology laboratories, she also majored in comparative religion. During her final year in college, she discovered medical anthropology, and that changed everything. A career in anthropology would allow her to pursue all of her research interests, from health and human biology to myth and religion.

Program Faculty

Marja  Bakermans

Marja Bakermans

Associate Teaching Professor

I possess a strong commitment to student education, and a goal of mine is to stimulate students' critical thinking and problem solving abilities. I have a well-grounded research background, which informs my teaching of interdisciplinary topics with an expertise in environmental science and conservation biology in both North and Latin America. I take an experiential approach to teaching where students receive a solid foundation of knowledge but then apply this to real-life situations. Field projects and service learning are essential components of my classroom instruction.

Melissa Malouf Belz

Melissa Belz

Associate Teaching Professor-Interdisciplinary

I am a geographer with a focus on the cultural landscape, meaning landscapes that are shaped by people. I am interested in development, how and why places change, and why certain traditions endure. I study this mainly through vernacular architecture (traditional regional design). My research was based in the Indian Himalaya and explores what connections forest policy and cash crop markets have with the decline in architectural woodcarving and vernacular design. I hope to better understand how modernization and preservation can be balanced to sustain culturally distinct landscapes.

John Andrew Bergendahl

John A. Bergendahl

Associate Professor

John Bergendahl is an associate professor in the Department of Civil Environmental Engineering at WPI. John has six years’ experience as a practicing engineer in industry, and holds a BS in mechanical engineering, an MS in environmental engineering, and a PhD in chemical engineering from the University of Connecticut. He conducted postdoctoral research in the Environmental and Water Resources Engineering Program at the University of Texas in Austin.

John-Michael  Davis

John-Michael Davis

Assistant Professor

John-Michael holds a diverse academic background with degrees in psychology, water management, environmental studies, and geography – which rightly embodies the interdisciplinary approach to research cultivated in the DIGS. His work follows a common theme that values community-driven and action oriented research to address complex development challenges related to sustainable livelihoods, informal economies, waste management, environmental contamination, community representation, and INGO legitimacy.

Jeanine Denu Dudle

Jeanine D. Dudle

Associate Professor- Civil & Environmental Engineering

My teaching and research interests focus on water quality and the safety of drinking waters. I study water from source to tap: where do contaminants originate from, what is their fate in the environment, and how do we engineer treatment processes to protect public health? I am particularly interested in preventing the transmission of pathogens through water. In source waters, I aim to identify sources of pollution and understand the fate, transport, and survival of those pollutants in the environment.

Katherine  Foo

Katherine Foo

Assistant Teaching Professor-Interdisciplinary

Katherine Foo, PhD MLA, is co-director of the Berlin Project Center and an assistant teaching professor in the Department of Integrated and Global Studies at Worcester Polytechnic Institute. Her research focuses on urban environmental governance and landscape visualization for social and environmental justice. She is passionate about fostering institutional change to empower community groups by building academic-civic partnerships.  Through engaged, inclusive practices like participatory mapping, scenario development, and desi

Courtney Brooke Kurlanska

Courtney Brooke Kurlanska

Assistant Teaching Professor-Interdisciplinary

I am an economic anthropologist who conducts both interdisciplinary and applied research. I study global issues from an ethnographic perspective examining local phenomena and placing it within their global context. My work has covered a variety of topics from spirituality and health to remittance strategies of Peruvian migrants. My dissertation research, funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation, examined the use of microfinance loans on rural livelihoods in Nicaragua. My current work is on the social and solidarity economy and its intersection with sustainable development.

Suzanne  LePage

Suzanne LePage

Instructor

Having initially graduated from WPI with a bachelor's degree in Civil Engineering in 1995, I returned to teach part-time and pursue graduate studies in 2007. While the intervening years as a professional planner provided me with a wide variety of experience assisting towns and regions with long-term planning goals, the teaching and project advising activities at WPI have been infinitely more rewarding. I teach classes in urban and environmental planning and advise undergraduate projects in those topics and others.

Rajib B. Mallick

Rajib Basu Mallick

Contingent Worker

Rajib Basu Mallick is currently the Ralph White Family Distinguished Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering at WPI. He graduated from Jadavpur University, India, in 1989 and received his master’s degree and PhD from Auburn University, USA. He also worked as a senior research associate at the National Center for Asphalt Technology, USA. Rajib’s main research interests are in the optimum utilization of natural resources and sustainable construction, specifically related to the pavement industry.

Paul P. Mathisen

Paul Mathisen

Associate Professor and Dir. of Sustainability

Professor Mathisen's teaching and research concentrate in the areas of water resources and environmental engineering. He enjoys challenging himself to learn new ideas and concepts, which he can then apply to solve problems that can make a difference for other people. WPI's curriculum and projects program provide the perfect environment for fostering these opportunities. Professor Mathisen especially enjoys advising projects and working with students, since these activities always provide excellent opportunities to learn, solve problems, and make a difference.

Stephen M. McCauley

Stephen M. McCauley

Associate Teaching Professor-Interdisciplinary

Stephen McCauley is a geographer whose work focuses on exploring how cities change and how urban futures can be inclusive, green and resilient. His broad substantive interests include climate change preparedness, urban resilience, energy system innovation, community participation in environmental decision-making, citizen science, and GI Science for urban planning. His current work addresses urban heat island dynamics and green infrastructure and other planning interventions that can mitigate the vulnerabilities associated with extreme heat in cities.

Geoffrey  Pfeifer

Geoffrey Pfeifer

Associate Teaching Professor-Interdisciplinary

Professor Pfeifer’s research focus in philosophy is on contemporary continental philosophy, social and political philosophy, global justice, and development ethics. He teaches philosophy courses, international studies courses, and for the Great Problems Seminars program. In addition to a number of chapters in edited collections, Professor Pfeifer's work can be found in journals such as Human Studies, The European Legacy, Crisis and Critique, Continental Thought and Theory, and Current Perspectives in Social Theory.

Derren  Rosbach

Derren Rosbach

Associate Teaching Professor

The overarching goal of my teaching and research is to contribute to an interdisciplinary understanding of environmental governance and policy. More specifically, I focus on the building of individual, organizational and institutional capacities to participate in collaborative efforts to address complex social and environmental sustainability problems through the application of science and technology.

William  San Martin

William San Martín

Assistant Teaching Professor

William San Martín is an interdisciplinary scholar of earth-systems sciences and global environmental governance trained in history, international politics & relations, and science & technology studies (STS). His work focuses on international development; Latin America & the Global South; socio-environmental (in)justices; and science, technology & the human environment.

Ingrid K. Shockey

Ingrid K. Shockey

Associate Teaching Professor-Interdisciplinary

Ingrid Shockey is an environmental sociologist whose work concerns natural literacy and the interplay of human-wilderness relationships. These domains include topics in biodiversity loss, climate change perceptions, and our sense of place and identity with respect to the landscape. Her work has focused most recently on mountain ecologies and economies in the western Himalaya.

Sarah Eliza Stanlick

Sarah E. Stanlick

Assistant Professor

Sarah Stanlick, Ph.D., is joining the faculty of the Interdisciplinary and Global Studies Division at Worcester Polytechnic Institute. She was the founding director of Lehigh University’s Center for Community Engagement and faculty member in Sociology and Anthropology. She previously taught at Centenary College of New Jersey and was a researcher at Harvard’s Kennedy School, assisting the US Ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power.

Elisabeth Anne Stoddard

Elisabeth Stoddard

Associate Teaching Professor - Social Science

Prof Stoddard is a human-environment geographer who is interested in the intersection of nature, society, and justice, particularly in the context of climate change. She looks at the ways in which we can design for climate resilience, in terms of infrastructure, location specific practices, and through community resilience. Stoddard also looks at the vulnerability and resilience of food systems to disasters (climate, disease outbreaks, etc.), and the impacts for humans, animals, and ecosystems.

Sarah  Strauss

Sarah Strauss

Professor

Sarah Strauss was born and raised on the east coast. During high school and college, she was deeply involved in biomedical research, and expected her career path to lie in this direction. She enjoyed the philosophical traditions, though, and so although she worked in molecular biology laboratories, she also majored in comparative religion. During her final year in college, she discovered medical anthropology, and that changed everything. A career in anthropology would allow her to pursue all of her research interests, from health and human biology to myth and religion.

Robert W. Traver

Robert W. Traver

Teaching Professor-Interdisciplinary

Two overarching questions direct Dr. Traver’s career: What is the nature of teaching? What is the teaching of nature?

Harold Webb Walker

Harold W. Walker

Schwaber Professor

Harold Walker is the Schwaber Professor of Environmental Engineering in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at WPI. Prior to his appointment at WPI, Professor Walker was the Founding Chair of the Department of Civil Engineering at Stony Brook University. Professor Walker also served as the co-Director of the New York State Center for Clean Water Technology at Stony Brook and was appointed by Governor Andrew Cuomo to the New York State Drinking Water Quality Council. Prior to Stony Brook, Dr.