University Program in Environmental Policy (UPEP)

Duke’s University Program in Environmental Policy (UPEP), jointly administered by the Sanford School of Public Policy (SSPP) and the Nicholas of the Environment (NSOE), is a five-year PhD program for intense research training in environmental policy. It combines disciplinary rigor—starting with the core PhD courses in the economics or the political science department—with topical knowledge and policy processes.

UPEP draws on the extensive resources of both schools and numerous other departments and research institutes at Duke. Students work with PhD students in other disciplines, within each school and across Duke. UPEP’s students and faculty conduct world-class research in both domestic and international contexts on topics including climate change, air quality, water quality, biodiversity, community resource management, ecosystem services, energy, environmental health, fisheries, forest management and overlaps with poverty and development. Graduates are prepared for academic positions in a range of departments and professional schools and professional positions in domestic and international public agencies, environmental organizations, research institutes, and consulting firms.

UPEP builds on a long history at Duke of engagement with environmental policy issues. NSOE’s predecessors—the School of Forestry, the Marine Lab, and the Geology Department—were founded in the 1930s. SSPP traces its history to the formation of the Institute of Policy Sciences and Public Affairs in 1971. Each school has offered environment-focused PhD training for many years. UPEP was created in 2010 to bring together groups at Duke already engaged in similar types of social science research and training in the environment—the first PhD program in the United States that is jointly administered by a school of the environment and a school of public policy.

Students seeking admission to UPEP should apply to The Graduate School, specifying UPEP. Applicants are encouraged to contact faculty members to learn more about their current research projects and interest in accepting new doctoral students. Direct inquiries to the assistant to the director of graduate studies, UPEP,, Graduate Studies, University Program in Environmental Policy, Box 90328, Duke University, Durham, NC 27708. Further information about UPEP can be found online at