Science to Solutions

To make sound policy and management decisions, governments, businesses, and other organizations must understand the problem and its causes. Science tells them, and the Bren School was founded with science-based problem-solving front and center. It was to be a place where the curriculum would have real-world relevance, and where leading-edge research and innovative interdisciplinary collaboration would be pursued with solutions in mind. It would be a place where aspiring scientists and environmental managers would receive the finest preparation for careers in which collaborative problem-solving is a defining element.

In the intervening years, the school has become that place, and those initial objectives are reflected deeply, richly, and broadly throughout.

Faculty conduct both theoretical and applied research, contributing to the evolution of important knowledge in their areas of expertise. Many also serve on interdisciplinary advisory groups tasked with developing long-range strategies for government agencies facing such issues as managing water, developing rules to regulate chemicals, reducing nutrient flow into major rivers, protecting endangered species, and developing new international agreements to manage resource use in the face of ice-free Arctic Ocean summers.

PhD alumni may assume positions in academia, joining the next generation of professors who will guide solution-minded students through their environmental studies. They may also become professional researchers, contributing energy and knowledge toward developing solutions for corporations, NGOs, and government agencies. One Bren PhD alumna assembled a highly interdisciplinary team to redesign a piece of decades-old oil-spill cleanup equipment, dramatically increasing its effectiveness; her oil skimmer was licensed and is now in use around the world. Another doctoral graduate works as part of a scientific team developing innovative techniques to counteract invasive species in Lake Tahoe, and another has created software that assists resource-management entities by identifying gaps in ocean-protection legislation. Increasingly, a Bren School PhD is an applied PhD.

Master’s students participate in a Master's Project as their capstone — either working as part of a Group Project or an Eco-Entrepreneurship (Eco-E) Project. Some do both. Students in Group Projects solve an environmental problem faced by an actual client that has a genuine stake in the outcome. "GPs," as they are known, provide MESM students with unparalleled professional experience and often have impacts unimaginable to students who write ordinary master’s theses. Students have worked for Google, Apple, Patagonia, Toyota, Deckers Outdoor, UCSB, the nation of Bermuda, the cities of Ventura and Santa Barbara, Conservation International, and many other businesses and organizations. Eco-E students spend a year developing a business model for a new venture that addresses both a consumer and an environmental challenge..

The Bren School has become the reality of its founders’ vision. In every endeavor and at every level, the Bren community is in action, individually and collectively fulfilling those early objectives by developing scientifically informed solutions every day.