Social and Environmental Justice Studies

SEJ picture liberal Studies

Social problems and Environmental problems are seen as separate issues, making it difficult to see how thoroughly intertwined they are and how often they both involve issues of Justice. The MALS concentration in Social and Environmental Justice Studies frames these issues ecologically to illuminate pathways and processes for justice.  The goal is to address both the environmental and the social in tandem, as they exist in the world. The Social and Environmental Justice Studies concentration brings together theory and methods to illuminate these complex, connective issues and to spur change.  While the SEJS concentration would consider some of the same issues as other programs more focused on sustainability or science education, this concentration’s focus on paths of social justice within these issues would differentiate it from other related concentrations.

Degree Requirements

MALS students take four classes within the program — Seminar in Interdisciplinary Studies, two core courses in their chosen concentration, and the thesis/capstone project — and choose their remaining electives from among courses offered across the doctoral and certificate programs in the Social Sciences and Humanities at The Graduate Center.

This master's degree program requires the following coursework for a total of 30 credits:

  • A required introductory course [MALS 70000: Seminar in Interdisciplinary Studies] (3 credits).
  • Two required core courses [MALS 72700 and MALS 72800] (6 credits).
  • 18 credits from courses of the student's choice that are relevant to the student’s concentration or studies
  • A master's thesis/capstone project [MALS 79000] (3 credits).

Core Courses

MALS 72700 The Political Ecology of Social and Environmental Justice 

Social and Environmental Justice photo

The course focuses on the uneven effects of production, social reproduction, distribution, privatization, social justice, and inequalities in environmental harms and benefits. This seminar will critically examine the theories and practices of political ecology, environmental justice, and the production of nature across the disparate geographies of north and south, urban and rural, and at a number of scales focusing on issues such as environmental conservation, nature preservation, biodiversity, eco-tourism, industrial agriculture, climate change, and green capitalism.

MALS 72800 Topics in Environmental Social Science
This required course introduces various social science approaches to problems of social and environmental justice drawn from environmental psychology, anthropology, geography and critical studies. Using a multidisciplinary framework that emphasizes both a scientific and moral commitment to social justice and to understanding human/non-human-environment interactions, students will participate in constructing an integrated model of current social and environmental problems that will aid them in their future research and application. A series of social justice and environmental issues will be surveyed each exploring different approaches and concepts so that students emerge with the ability to make effective and thoughtful choices about the constructs they employ when framing problems. The course will require extensive reading and discussion in class concluding with a final fieldwork or literature review project in preparation for their later coursework. 

Elective Courses

Electives can be chosen among courses offered across most of the doctoral and certificate programs in the Social Sciences and Humanities at the Graduate Center.
For related coursework in Social and Environmental Justice Studies, students may especially want to look to offerings in the doctoral programs in Environmental PsychologyEarth and Environmental Sciences, and Critical Social Personality Psychology.

Library Resources

Visit the GC Mina Rees Library's Liberal Studies Research Guide.
Students' contact for Social and Environmental Justice Studies research is reference librarian Adriana Palmer.

associated faculty

Other faculty, who have taught core courses or electives for this concentration or supervised theses and capstones, include Rebio Diaz Cardona and Cindi Katz (Earth and Environmental Sciences, Psychology, American Studies, Women's and Gender Studies).

Social and Environmental Justice Concentration Faculty

Headshot of Michelle Fine

Michelle Fine

Distinguished Professor

  • Urban Education

Distinguished Professor

  • Psychology

Distinguished Professor

  • Liberal Studies

Distinguished Professor

  • Women's and Gender Studies

Distinguished Professor

  • American Studies