top of page

Leader Profile: University of California, Santa Barbara

UC Santa Barbara students from the Bren School of Environmental Science and Management work on applied projects such as a community choice energy evaluation tool created by these students  (Image credit: Clean Power Exchange)

They top the chart for Net Impact's "Business as Unusual" Environmental Sustainability ranking, enjoy the nation's first LEED Platinum lab (Bren Hall), and they get to see dolphins between classes:  the Bren School of Environmental Science and Management.

The Bren School is not a business school but rather an interdisciplinary research and teaching center with a primary focus on environmental science but also with emphasis on policy, economics, business, and legal aspects of environmental challenges. They have been doing this important work since 1991 and have created a strong program whose features others can learn from.

"As the world's environmental challenges grow in number, complexity, and magnitude, the Bren School of Environmental Science & Management at UC Santa Barbara serves as an important center of teaching and leading-edge research. The school is known for its highly integrated, comprehensive approach to environmental management and solving environmental problems. The interdisciplinary curriculum grounds students not only in the natural sciences, but also in the economic, legal, management, and policy perspectives that are critical to understanding and addressing those challenges."

They take around 175 master's and 50 PhD students each year to their campus and emphasize a strong, diverse community of learners and faculty.

Deeply Interdisciplinary 

The core curriculum is a mix of business, economics, policy and environmental science classes.  After the core, students can concentrate in a number of areas from Corporate Environmental Management to Energy and Climate to Coastal Marine Resources Management and Conservation Planning.

It feels like an environmental science or natural resource management program that has expanded to include a broader set of challenges and concepts from economics, business and law.  Like many programs, the interdisciplinary approach is foundational and, I think, quite impressive.

Hands-on, Boots-on, Getting out of the Building: Solving Real-World Problems

As in many similar programs, there is a heavy emphasis on applied-learning and applied research such as in the capstone-type group projects or "Eco-E Project". They have a well-developed structure to invite proposals from potential clients so that students can select from vetted, qualified projects and clients get real value. More on Master's Projects

"Group Project teams usually comprise four to five students who spend nine months collaborating to solve an actual environmental problem faced by a real-world client.

Eco-E Project teams (part of the Eco-E focus) of similar size collaborate over the course of a year to develop a business model intended to bring a new environmentally oriented, commercially viable product or service to market."

Very cool program and I celebrate what they are doing.  They have their students present at a large gathering at the end of the year, like a symposium which is an awesome idea.  It brings greater attention to the program, showcases student ideas, and provides a terrific learning opportunity for students.

bottom of page