With so many options for specialization, I have a good chance to find something at URI that I would love; however, if I decide to apply, I will need to look at the departments and specializations offered much more closely to determine what will best suit my needs. Additionally, I like the location of the school, which is a huge mark in its favor. I am mostly concerned with 1) having trouble finding the most appropriate specialization for me (also known as too many options) and 2) getting the attention I want from professors. Lastly, I am concerned (out of pride) with the graduate school ranking, which is lower than I would like.
The first sub-department which interests me is the Masters of Environmental Science Management, which focuses on managing different aspects of the environment in different ways.
I think that this department focuses much more heavily on policy when it comes to the environment: more specifically, how humans interact with the environment (both how we can better use it to our advantage and how we can better clean up after ourselves).
The other sub-department which interests me is the Masters of Biological and Environmental Sciences. I would be interested in either the Ecology and Ecosystem Sciences specialization or the Environmental and Earth Sciences specialization. The difference is this: the first focuses on patterns and processes of populations, communities, and ecosystems; the second focuses on the history, function, and condition of earth’s environment, both locally and globally, past and present.
I think that this second department focuses more heavily on understanding environmental composition, processes, and history just to be able to understand it better. Translation: it’s more focused on research.
The challenge I am facing is that I would prefer to study the environment as a whole, but I dislike policy (the first department); on the other hand, I love the idea of studying the environment just to know it better — I just dislike the idea of focusing on a single species (the second department).
While such a large department has the potential to provide a compromise between the two, I also run the risk of getting sucked into a specialization which I will not ultimately enjoy. And the whole point of going to graduate school is to enjoy what I do, as I will hopefully be doing it for a very long time.
Pro: I like that URI is in Rhode Island (obviously), since it is close to my mom’s side of the family, and I would love to get to know them better. I also like that it is in the NE, which is one of the regions to which I am more interested in moving.
Pro: there seems to be a high integration of GIS (translation: making maps) into the Environmental Science graduate program, which I would love to continue studying.
Con: a large department means it might be challenging to get the attention I want or need from professors.
Con: Last, the school is ranked #52 in Earth Sciences and #130 in Biological Sciences. While ranking is not the most important thing I am considering when it comes to Graduate Programs, I do think that it is important to consider. I would rather go to a school in the top 20 or so in my field…and URI clearly does not meet those standards. Let’s be honest. It’s about pride and prestige. But if I find a program which I absolutely love? Then the ranking loses significance. It’s just something to think about, I guess.