A course of nature

MES in the Community, Yvette Bordeaux

MES program director Yvette Bordeaux helps environmentally motivated students find their way

“Now more than ever, we need people to get involved and get educated about environmental issues,” says Yvette Bordeaux, Director of Professional Masters Programs in Earth and Environmental Science at the University of Pennsylvania. “Master of Environmental Studies students are very motivated and very passionate. They want to make a difference, and many of them know what they want to do—there’s just something more they need to make it happen.” The two-year interdisciplinary program equips students to get ahead or shift into a fulfilling career: some study to deepen their scientific knowledge; some prepare to take a role in shaping environmental policy; others tailor their coursework to update sustainable practices in corporate settings. “The curriculum is unique to each student,” explains Yvette. “We start with where you’ve been, what your background is, and where you want to go. Then we figure out what you need to get there.”

The Master of Environmental Studies (MES) program’s flexible curriculum is vital for students who want to take on the most pressing issues in the environment, where there is rarely ever a one-size-fits-all approach. Just last year, Yvette’s introductory seminar was contacted by the Environmental Protection Agency to work on improving intractable water systems in coal country; the students teamed up to research solutions ranging from policy proposals to community action to affordable technology.

When she’s not teaching, reviewing thesis projects, or coordinating professional development for MES students going on the job market, Yvette’s mission is to help MES students find their way beyond the classroom. “There are so many great opportunities to get experience and learn in and around Penn,” she says, noting the proliferation of student-run activities and publications as well as campus-based organizations like the Water Center at Penn and the Kleinman Center for Energy Policy. Through faculty and alumni connections, the MES program coordinates and subsidizes courses that take students to conferences in Stockholm and Kolkata, where they can study complex problems alongside global leaders in the field. The pathways to a greener future lead MES graduates in many different directions, says Yvette, but the campus itself is a fertile ground for environmental innovation. “Philadelphia is our living laboratory,” she says. “We have students doing local internships in fields like green infrastructure, urban forestry, and energy policy, and the work they do is going to have a lasting impact on Philadelphia’s citizens.”