Environmental Science and Public Policy


The Environmental Science and Public Policy (ESPP) secondary field provides students with a multi-disciplinary introduction to the complex environmental challenges confronting society today. These challenges require an understanding of the underlying scientific and technical issues, as well as an appreciation for the relevant economic, political, legal, historical and ethical dimensions. 

Students become well-versed in the broad, interconnected issues of environment and public policy through course work and a colloquium. Students choose courses in biology, chemistry, earth and environmental sciences, economics, government, engineering, and mathematics, complementing their primary studies with courses that will provide balanced exposure to environmental science and policy perspectives. 

REQUIREMENTS: 5 courses (20 credits) and colloquium participation 

The ESPP secondary field requires the successful completion of 5 courses, including one foundational course and four upper-level courses. Students must also participate in a program colloquium, as outlined below. 

Students choose one of the following foundational courses: 

  • ESPP 11. Sustainable Development 
  • EPS 50. The Fluid Earth: Oceans, Atmosphere, Climate and Environment 
  • ESE 6. Introduction to Environmental Science and Engineering 
  • GE 1085 Energy Resources and the Environment 
  • GE 1094. The Climate-Energy Challenge 
  • GE 1137 The Challenge of Human Induced Climate Change: Transitioning to a Post Fossil Fuel Future 

Students must choose at least four additional upper-level courses. 

At least two courses must be chosen from each of two elective categories: Social Sciences and Public Policy, and Natural Sciences and Engineering. The complete list of course options can be found on the ESPP website


During each semester there will be several evening discussion sessions that are intended specifically to engage ESPP secondary field students in discussion with Harvard faculty. Some will require preparatory readings and others will require prior attendance at a public lecture on campus. Students will be required to attend at least one session for each semester once they have been accepted into the program. 

Other Information: 

Students must declare their engagement in this secondary field no later than course enrollment deadline of their sixth term and are required to complete an application form. 

Students may petition the ESPP Head Tutor, in advance, for the approval of any exceptions to the course options for the secondary field. Substitutions with courses offered in Study Abroad programs, at the Harvard Summer School or any of Harvard’s other schools may with prior permission count toward the secondary field requirements. 

Freshmen seminars do not count toward secondary field requirements. All courses counting towards the secondary field must be taken for a letter grade. A grade of “C” or better is required for secondary field credit. 


The ESPP Head Tutor, Professor N. Michele Holbrook (holbrook@oeb.harvard.edu), or Lorraine Maffeo, Program Administrator, (maffeo@fas.harvard.edu), are available for advice about the secondary field. Students will be assigned an adviser following their submission of an anticipated course of study.