The Bren School's mission is to solve environmental problems.
At Bren, we develop interdisciplinary solutions to environmental problems, train environmental leaders, and work for a sustainable future.
Located steps from the beach on the beautiful UCSB campus, the Bren School of Environmental Science & Management is home to two professional master’s programs, the Master of Environmental Data Science and Master of Environmental Science and Management, a dynamic PhD in Environmental Science and Management, and research leaders who contribute meaningful work in their fields.
Bren is a leading center of environmental research. Bren faculty are experts in their disciplines of environmental and natural resources research, collaborating across disciplines from the natural sciences, social sciences, and data science, as well as environmental economics, policy, and law.
Home to the Bren School, Bren Hall is a triple LEED Platinum certified laboratory building. In 2017, Bren Hall was recognized as the "greenest" laboratory building in the United States. Bren Hall is a material reflection of the school's commitment to meeting human needs in an environmentally sustainable way.
Research at Bren
The Bren School is a leading center of environmental research conducted by faculty, PhD students, postdoctoral students, and master's students, particularly as part of the Master's Group Project, the capstone project that serves as the thesis for the Master of Environmental Science & Management degree. A number of programs, initiatives, and centers connect researchers between disciplines for collaborative, innovative research in their fields.
Diversity and Inclusion
At its core, the Bren School values diversity and inclusion as critical to the environmental field, to our mission, and to the success of our students. Job markets and academic communities in environmental science have, historically, been weighted toward racial, gender, and socioeconomic privileged communities. We recognize this privilege and imbalance and we are having critical discussions to establish a strategic plan to make the wonderful community and economic benefits of a Bren School education more accessible and diverse. The field is evolving, embracing the intersection of environmental justice with environmental science, and the Bren School wants to be at the epicenter of that change. We invite you to read a statement from Sarah Anderson, Bren’s Associate Dean of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, about the steps Bren is taking toward increased diversity and inclusion.
In 1991, the Regents of the University of California approved a new graduate school of Environmental Science & Management at UC Santa Barbara. Santa Barbara is considered by many as the birthplace of modern environmentalism, which emerged in response to a devastating oil spill in 1969. Following the spill, UCSB opened a new Environmental Studies undergraduate degree program, now with over 800 undergraduate students. With growing public awareness of environmental issues and increased public understanding of the multifaceted nature of environmental problems, a transition to an interdisciplinary approach to solving these issues was adopted.
In 1994, Jeff Dozier, professor of Earth systems science, became the first dean of the new graduate school of Environmental Science & Management. The school's focus is to solve environmental problems through interdisciplinary collaboration. The faculty consists of natural and social scientists who are distinguished in their fields and collaborate across disciplines to find solutions to environmental challenges. The school is a crossroads where prominent leaders, thinkers, practitioners, and innovators convene to present and discuss new findings in critical disciplines related to environmental science and management. The school offers graduate training for a new kind of solution-oriented environmental professional. Graduates are highly trained in quantitative, multidisciplinary analysis of environmental problems and have a solid understanding of the political, economic, and social dimensions of environmental decision-making.
The graduate school appointed its first faculty members in 1995, accepted the first 20 students in the Master of Environmental Science and Management (MESM) program in 1996 and the first PhD student enrolled in 1998. The student body has grown significantly since then. Bren's alumni network has grown to more than 1,500 students in 2020, working to solve environmental problems across the US and in over 30 countries.
In 1997, Donald Bren invested in the graduate school of Environmental Science & Management to fund a new building, student fellowships, and faculty chair positions. The school was renamed as the Bren School of Environmental Science & Management. Bren Hall, the nation's first LEED Platinum certified laboratory building, was completed in 2002. Bren Hall was recertified at the Platinum level for Operations and Maintenance in 2009 and 2017. In 2010, the Bren School received a significant gift from the Michael J. Connell Memorial Trust, providing support in perpetuity for student fellowships and activities, instruction for courses and workshops, and seed funding for innovative research, among other initiatives.
The current dean of the Bren School is Dr. Steve Gaines. Bren's previous deans are:
- Jeff Dozier: In 1994, Henry Yang made his first academic appointment as UCSB chancellor, naming Jeff Dozier founding dean of the graduate school of Environmental Science & Management (now the Bren School). Dozier embarked on the campaign that would lead to the significant gift from Donald Bren in 1997.
- Dennis Aigner: Dr. Aigner served as associate dean in 1998-2001, acting dean in 2000-2001, and dean of the Bren School in 2001-2005. Having been the dean of the UC Irvine business school, Aigner helped to build the corporate and business components of the Bren Master's curriculum.
- John Melack: Having co-authored the initial school proposal, Professor Melack had the understanding, administrative savvy, and network to effectively run the school. He played a key role in landing the Michael J. Connell gift, the largest ever at Bren.
- Ernst von Weizsäcker: Dr. Von Weizsacker, former member of the German parliament and former president of the University of Kassel, had a vision of expanding the school's presence in industrial ecology and taught a course on that subject. Under von Weizsacker's leadership, Bren added the MESM specialization in Energy and Climate and the Eco-Entrepreneurship focus.