graduate school: option the first

The first school that caught my eye when I started looking at Environmental Science Graduate Programs was the University of Rhode Island.

In Summary:

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 details:

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.

Miscellaneous considerations:

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.



One thought on “graduate school: option the first

  1. Hi Cari,
    I see only one of your cons as a concern, the ranking. Speaking from my graduate experience, the professors I encountered were more than willing to help a student who showed interest and determination. The professors I know (in general) are also willing to go the extra for a student who is focused being the best they can be. So I guess, what I’m saying is, do you want the college to speak for you, or are you interested in being sought after for what you are able to do (my grades are…) and have done (the projects I’ve worked on and continue to support…) wherever you take your degree? Maybe you want, I graduated from…. and I am in the top 10 of my class, then you will want to look into the top 20.
    Just my two cents worth. Have a great day!
    Love, Auntie Lynn

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