Curriculum Options

SMEA has a two track curriculum to serve students preparing for careers as practitioners, as well as those who are focused on academic or research-oriented careers.

The Professional track offers two options to better meet the needs of students looking to go directly into the workforce following the completion of their degree. The capstone option will allow practice-oriented students to obtain vital real-world experience through applied learning, which will be performed by small groups in service to a real-world client. The alternative, courses-only option, is geared towards students who seek to gain specific skills through additional coursework, which are usually put to immediate use post-graduation in a currently held or previously held, SMEA-relevant position.

The Thesis track will allow research-oriented students to develop and hone research skills appropriate for academic careers. Find out more about possible research topics on our Research Areas page.

The curriculum requirements for the two tracks are similar, but differ in important ways that reflect the orientation of each track. Regardless of which track a student chooses, all MMA students will graduate with the same well-rounded, interdisciplinary training that SMEA has provided for 40+ years.

A Human-Dimensions Focused Curriculum for Both Tracks

The human-dimensions focus of the SMEA MMA curriculum is embedded in both tracks. This curriculum is designed to familiarize students with a diversity of conceptual and methodological approaches and substantive areas in the field of marine and environmental affairs.

The field focuses on the connections between marine and terrestrial environments and the surrounding communities. To encompass such a broad field, the School utilizes a framework called “Human Dimensions of Global Change in the Marine Environment” (HDGCME).

Core and Elective Classes

The curriculum can be divided into two categories: Core and Elective classes.

The Core is comprised of three broad areas:

  1. The Introductory Sequence which addresses SMEA’s HDGCME theme;
  2. Subject Areas such as marine science, marine law, economics, environment equity & justice, etc.; and
  3. Analytic Skills including quantitative analysis, policy analysis, etc.

Elective courses are intended to enhance the student’s knowledge of marine and environmental affairs in areas pertinent to the Capstone, Thesis project, and/or the student’s special interests. Electives provide the needed depth of understanding in substantive fields of inquiry and in methods of research and analysis. Most students take a combination of SMEA and external department coursework to gain a well rounded set of skills and perspectives.

The SMEA faculty have identified research areas in which they primarily work. Students can research in one of these areas or pursue research in any other topic they wish.

The first year of study is devoted to developing a comprehensive understanding of marine and environmental affairs including how the HDGCME construct applies to the field, as well as to strengthening analytical skills, demonstrated by making substantial progress toward the completion of the core course requirements and electives. For students in the Professional track, a major first year task will be to consider which of the available capstone projects they are most interested in, or to develop a detailed course plan for the course-only option, while for Thesis track students, they will identify a thesis chair and develop a thesis topic and thesis prospectus by the end of spring quarter.

During the second year of study, students in the different tracks will not only focus on their culminating project (capstone for Professional track students and thesis for Thesis track students), but also will continue to take electives and core courses as required. All three options will require a presentation sharing what they learned from either their thesis, capstone, or selected coursework with the SMEA community.

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