Master’s in Community Climate Adaptation

Master of Science
Students gathered in Arnehar
Student on mountain

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.

Value Proposition Description

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 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.

Student Experiences

Solange Uwera, MS
Solange Uwera, MS
MS in Community Climate Adaptation

Solange first learned about WPI as a Fulbright Scholar. After talking with Professor Strauss and Professor Dudle, Solange knew this was an institution where she could advance her knowledge and gain the field experience she was seeking.   [...]

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Erin Bryan ’23
Erin Bryan ’23
MS, Community Climate Adaptation

A conversation with Professor Sarah Strauss helped Erin combine her academic and personal interests in climate change into a meaningful degree path[...]

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Alum Success Stories

woman on beach

Sol Giesso ’23, MS ’24

Educating and Empowering to Fight Climate Change

Jacob

Jacob Morse '21, MS '23

Jacob wants to help cities adapt to climate change

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

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)

Spring & Summer

GQP: EXTENDED

RESEARCH/PROJECT

IGS 595 (8 credits)

 

GA/IQP

 

Skills Acquisition:

Language, methods





Online Cohort Discussion

 







 

 

Fall

Capstone:

IGS 590

Comparative 

Climate Action

(3 credits)



GQP Conference:

IGS 599

(2 credits)



2 Electives:

Topical, Method

or Area

(minimum 6 credits)







 

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Dr. Laureen Elgert (DIGS), Program Director

Laureen Elgert
Laureen Elgert
Professor & Department Head,
The Global School

I joined WPI in 2011 as a scholar and teacher with training in public health, environmental policy, and international development studies. My research and teaching interests focused on the environment-development nexus, where tensions between sustainability and livelihoods often lead to contentious policy debates.

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Dr. Harold Walker (CEAE), Program Director

Harold Walker
Harold Walker

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.

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Program Faculty

Laila Abu-Lail
Laila Abu-Lail
Assistant Professor of Teaching, Civil, Environmental, & Architectural Engineering

Professor Abu-Lail is an assistant teaching professor of chemical engineering. She earned a PhD in civil engineering at WPI in 2011 and completed a postdoctoral fellowship while also teaching undergraduate and graduate courses in chemical engineering and civil and environmental engineering. While working with chemical engineering professor Terri Camesano, she investigated the effect of cranberry juice components on the ability of the bacteria that cause urinary tract infections to adhere to uroepitheial cells, and she continues to be interested in the studies of bacterial adhesion.

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Marja Bakermans
Marja Bakermans
Associate Teaching Professor,
The Global School

I possess a strong commitment to student education, and a goal of mine is to stimulate students' critical thinking and problem-solving abilities. Recently, students and I have been on a journey to open classroom content and discussions in an interdisciplinary and inclusive way. Students are challenged to rethink their role as active knowledge producers beyond the class as students become co-authors of open educational resources.

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Melissa Belz
Melissa Belz
Associate Teaching Professor,
The Global School

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.

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John Bergendahl
John Bergendahl

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.

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John-Michael Davis
John-Michael Davis
Assistant Professor of Teaching,
The Global School

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.

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Leslie Dodson
Leslie Dodson
Adjunct Teaching Professor,
The Global School
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Jeanine Dudle
Jeanine Dudle

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.

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Carrick Eggleston
Carrick Eggleston

After the PhD and postdocs at the Swiss Federal Institute for Environmental Science and Technology (EAWAG) and at Lawrence Livermore National Lab, Eggleston became an assistant professor at the University of Wyoming in 1995. He had an NSF CAREER award 1998-2003, and spent a sabbatical leave working at EPFL in Lausanne and LCPME in Nancy, France. He was a Fulbright Scholar in south India 2012-2013, and part of an Interdisciplinary Fellowship team at the Rachel Carson Center for Environment and Society in both 2016 and 2017.

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Katherine Foo
Katherine Foo
Assistant Professor of Teaching,
The Global School

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

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Courtney Kurlanska
Courtney Kurlanska
Assistant Professor of Teaching,
The Global School

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.

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Suzanne LePage
Suzanne LePage

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.

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Paul Mathisen
Paul Mathisen
Associate Professor and Dir. of Sustainability, Civil, Environmental, & Architectural Engineering

Professor Mathisen is the Director of Sustainability at WPI and is also a faculty member in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering Department.  As Director of Sustainability, Professor Mathisen works to promote sustainability and engage the community in WPI’s academic programs, research, operations and facilities, with consideration to areas such as water, energy, transportation, and waste management.

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Stephen McCauley
Stephen McCauley
Associate Professor of Teaching,
The Global School

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.

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Geoffrey Pfeifer
Geoffrey Pfeifer
Associate Professor of Teaching,
The Global School

My areas of expertise in philosophy and social theory are in social and political philosophy, Marxism, global justice, development ethics, and also Critical Pedagogies. I teach philosophy courses, global studies courses, and for the Great Problems Seminars program (currently I co-teach the Seeking Sustainability and the Climate Change courses for this program).

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Derren Rosbach
Derren Rosbach
Associate Professor of Teaching,
The Global School

 

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.

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William San Martín
William San Martín
Assistant Professor,
The Global School

William San Martín (He/Him/El) is Assistant Professor of Global Environmental Science, Technology, and Governance in the Department of Integrative and Global Studies at Worcester Polytechnic Institute. 

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Ingrid Shockey
Ingrid Shockey
Teaching Professor,
The Global School

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.

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Sarah Stanlick
Sarah Stanlick
Assistant Professor,
The Global School

Sarah Stanlick, Ph.D., is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Integrative and Global Studies and the Director of the Great Problems Seminar at Worcester Polytechnic Institute. She was the founding director of Lehigh University’s Center for Community Engagement and faculty member in Sociology and Anthropology.

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Elisabeth Stoddard
Elisabeth Stoddard
Associate Professor of Teaching,
The Global School

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.

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Sarah Strauss
Sarah Strauss
Professor,
The Global School

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.

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Seth Tuler
Seth Tuler
Associate Professor,
The Global School

 

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Harold Walker
Harold Walker

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.

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