Hostname: page-component-7d684dbfc8-2bg86 Total loading time: 0.001 Render date: 2023-09-28T11:17:50.466Z Has data issue: false Feature Flags: { "corePageComponentGetUserInfoFromSharedSession": true, "coreDisableEcommerce": false, "coreDisableSocialShare": false, "coreDisableEcommerceForArticlePurchase": false, "coreDisableEcommerceForBookPurchase": false, "coreDisableEcommerceForElementPurchase": false, "coreUseNewShare": true, "useRatesEcommerce": true } hasContentIssue false

ENVIRONMENTAL REVIEWS AND CASE STUDIES: In Search of Common Ground: Exploring Identity and Core Competencies for Interdisciplinary Environmental Programs

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  12 March 2010

Shirley Vincent*
Council of Environmental Deans and Directors, National Council for Science and the Environment, Washington, DC; and the Environmental Science Graduate Program, Oklahoma State University, Stillwater, Oklahoma
Will Focht
Environmental Science Graduate Program, and Certificate Program in Environmental Studies, Institute for Sustainable Environments; Oklahoma Water Resources Research Institute; and Oklahoma State University, Stillwater, Oklahoma
Address correspondence to: Shirley Vincent, Oklahoma State University Environmental Science Graduate Program, 002 Life Sciences East, Oklahoma State University, Stillwater, OK 74078-3011; (phone) 918-629-5143; (fax) 405-744-7074; (e-mail)
Get access


The National Association of Environmental Professionals (NAEP) and other constituencies have advocated the development of core competency guidelines for environmental educational programs for many years. Despite the high level of interest, no consensus has emerged on program identity that could lead to their development. The lack of a clearly defined identity has threatened program legitimacy and raised concerns about how well these programs are preparing students for entry into the environmental profession. To address these concerns, the Council of Environmental Deans and Directors, a group of academic environmental program leaders operating under the auspices of the National Council for Science and the Environment, launched a study to learn more about extant program curricula and investigate the potential for reaching consensus on core competence areas. In this article, we review selected findings from the study to date and discuss their implications for the development of core competency criteria. Despite differing perspectives on curriculum design, our research indicates that programs share a common vision of program identity congruent with sustainability. A review of employer and employee surveys and reports from environmental professionals also point toward participation in and understanding of sustainability processes as increasingly important components of practice. Taken together, these findings indicate that sustainability could serve as an overarching paradigm to inform the development of core knowledge and skill competency recommendations for curriculum design.

Environmental Practice 12:76–86 (2010)

Copyright © National Association of Environmental Professionals 2010

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)


Brand, R., and Karvonen, A.. 2007. The Ecosystem of Expertise: Complementary Knowledges for Sustainable Development. Sustainability: Science, Practice & Policy 3(1):2131.Google Scholar
Brown, S.R. 1993. A Primer on Q Methodology. Operant Subjectivity 16(3–4):91138.Google Scholar
Deverman, R. 2006. Guiding Ideas: Key Skills to Lead Environmental Professionals. Environmental Practice 8(3):156158.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Doyle, K. 2005. Personal communication. President, Green Economy and former National Program Director, Environmental Careers Organization, Boston. January 3.Google Scholar
Environmental Business Journal (EBJ). 2007. The U.S. Environmental Industry Overview: An Executive Review. EBJ Report 2020B. EBJ, Natick, MA, 100 pp.Google Scholar
Esson, J. 2005. Personal communication. Director, Green Careers Center, formerly the Environmental Careers Center. Hampton, VA. January 6.Google Scholar
Focht, W., and Abramson, C.. 2009. The Case for Interdisciplinary Environmental Education and Research. American Journal of Environmental Sciences 5(2):124129.Google Scholar
Fridgen, C. 2005. The Current State of Environmental Education. Environmental Practice 7(3):137138.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Giacomelli, P., Travisi, C., and Nava, M.. 2003. Are Graduates in Environmental Sciences Potential Managers of the Environment? Some Problems and Examples in the North of Italy. International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education 4(1):916.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Ginsberg, B., Doyle, K., and Cook, J.R.. 2004. The ECO Guide to Careers That Make a Difference. Island Press, Washington DC, 329 pp.Google Scholar
González, C., Neimeier, D.A., and Navrotsky, A.. 2003. The New Generation of American Scholars. Academe 89(4):5660.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Hull, R. 2009. Transition from Student to Employee: The Necessary Science and Skills. In Addressing Global Environmental Security through Innovative Educational Curricula, Allen-Gil, S., Stelljes, L. and Borysova, O., eds. Springer NATO Science for Peace and Security Series C: Environmental Security.Springer, Dordrecht, The Netherlands, 7580.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Jamison, A. 2003–4. Memories of ESSENCE: Reflections on Environmental Higher Education in Europe. Environmental Sciences 1(3):238253.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Jørgensen, U., and Lauridsen, E.H.. 2005. Environmental Professional Competences: The Role of Communities of Practice and Spaces for Reflexive Learning. Greener Management International 49:5767.Google Scholar
Kates, R.W., Parris, T.M., and Leiserowitz, A.. 2005. What Is Sustainable Development? Goals, Indicators, Values and Practice. Environment: Science and Policy for Sustainable Development 47(3):821.Google Scholar
Krozer, Y. 2005. The Life-cycle of Environmental Professionalism. Greener Management International 49:4355.Google Scholar
Maniates, M.F., and Whissel, J.C.. 2000. Environmental Studies: The Sky Is Not Falling. BioScience 50(6):509517.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Martin, S., Brannigan, J., and Hall, A.. 2005. Sustainability, Systems Thinking and Professional Practice. Journal of Geography in Higher Education 29(1):7989.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Mieg, H.A. 2008. Professionalism and Professional Identities of Environmental Experts: The Case of Switzerland. Environmental Sciences 5(1):4151.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Millett, C.M., Payne, D.G., Dwyer, C.A., Stickler, L.M., and Alexiou, J.J.. 2008. A Culture of Evidence: An Evidence-Centered Approach to Accountability for Student Learning Outcomes. Educational Testing Service, Princeton, NJ, 25 pp.Google Scholar
Newman, P. 2005. Can the Magic of Sustainability Revive Environmental Professionalism? Greener Management International 49:1123.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Romero, A., and Silveri, P.. 2006. Not All Are Created Equal: An Analysis of the Environmental Programs/Department in U.S. Academic Institutions from 1900 until May 2005. Journal of Integrative Biology 1(1):115.Google Scholar
Roorda, N., and Martens, P.. 2008. Assessment and Certification of Higher Education for Sustainable Development. Sustainability: The Journal of Record 1(1):4156.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Runhaar, H., Driessen, P., and Vermeulen, W.. 2005. Policy Competences of Environmental Sustainability Professionals. Greener Management International 49:2541.Google Scholar
Sherren, K. 2007. Is There a Sustainability Canon? An Exploration and Aggregation of Expert Opinions. Environmentalist 27(3):341347.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Soule, M.E., and Press, D.. 1998. What Is Environmental Studies? Bioscience 48(5):397405Google Scholar
Thomas, I.G. 1992. Integrators: An Outcome of Environmental Education. Environmentalist 12(4):261266.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Thomas, I., Lane, R., Ribon-Tobon, L., and May, C.. 2007. Careers in the Environment in Australia: Surveying Environmental Jobs. Environmental Education Research 13(1):97117.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Thomas, I., and Nicita, J.. 2003. Employers' Expectations of Graduates of Environmental Programs: An Australian Experience. Applied Environmental Education and Communication 2(1):4959.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
United States Department of Labor. 2008. Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2008–09 Edition. Labor Statistics Bulletin 2700. Washington, DC, 725 pp.Google Scholar
United States Environmental Protection Agency Office of Administration and Resource Management. 1999. Workforce Assessment Project: Executive Summary and Tasks 1–4 Final Reports. Available at (accessed February 19, 1999).Google Scholar
Vincent, S., and Focht, W.. 2009. U.S. Higher Education Environmental Program Managers' Perspectives on Curriculum Design and Core Competencies: Implications for Sustainability as a Guiding Framework. International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education 10(2):164183.CrossRefGoogle Scholar