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Request for Proposals: MESM

The Bren School invites any agency, company, organization, or individual facing an environmental challenge to submit a proposal for a Master of Environmental Science and Management thesis project.

This is a valuable opportunity to have a group of talented master's students tackle the problem and make recommendations to address it. It is also an excellent opportunity to establish a working relationship with the Bren School. Projects give businesses, government agencies, NGOs, and other organizations the opportunity to have a group of talented students tackle their environmental problem and make specific and meaningful recommendations.

The Bren School also invites partners to submit a proposal for a Master of Environmental Data Science (MEDS) capstone project.

How it Works

Throughout the project, clients receive high-quality consulting work that is approximately equivalent to one full-time employee engaged for a year. This work helps students develop skills in project management, teamwork, leadership, financial management, organization and data presentation, and effective stakeholder communication. The projects also serve to expand both parties’ professional networks by connecting future and current environmental leaders.

The Bren School encourages creative, interdisciplinary proposals, and has supported a variety of projects, including (but not limited to): cost benefit analyses, life cycle assessments, spatial planning, carbon accounting, fisheries management, pollution remediation, supply chain efficiencies, strategic communication, and assessing community attitudes toward environmental problems.

Deadline & Procedures

The Request for Proposals for the 2023-24 Group Project Cycle is now closed. Proposals are due by 5:00 pm (PST) on Friday, January 27, 2023.

All proposers must contact the Bren School ( as the first step in proposal development. The Bren School provides guidance regarding proposal content and format. They will also connect proposal authors with Bren faculty, staff, and students who can provide additional guidance and assistance in writing proposals.

Project proposals are due via email to by 5:00 pm Pacific Time on January 27, 2023, and are limited to three (3) pages (excluding references, budget and justification, and client letter of support). Examples of successful proposal submissions and completed projects can be found in the Master’s Project Directory.

Please download and review the following documents in preparation: 

Man speaking to group of students outdoors

Desirable Project Attributes

Solution-Oriented. Group Projects prepare students to produce meaningful solutions to today’s environmental problems. To this end, projects should yield a specific policy or management recommendation, contain multidisciplinary elements, and align with student and faculty interest.

Data-Driven. Projects should also provide an existing dataset for students to analyze; projects that require extensive data collection or fieldwork are not desirable and will not be considered. Surveys or data collection can be a component of a project but should not be the primary focus.

Funding Support. External funding for the project (e.g., for summer internships, travel, or supplies, sampling and analysis) is one of several factors considered in project selection. If the proposal requires substantial resources, the client will need to include a clear commitment of financial support for the proposed project.

Collaborative, Yet Flexible. A spirit of trust and collaboration by all parties is expected; client involvement should support students while allowing them to develop their own ideas and approaches.

Project Timeline 2023-24

Year 1

  • Fall: The client works independently or with students to identify an environmental problem and write a Group Project proposal.
  • Winter: Submit proposals by Friday, January 27, 2023. Projects are selected in late March; students and faculty advisors are assigned, and clients are notified by end of March.
  • Spring: Client meets the team; students refine project objectives, gather data, review literature, and develop a work plan.
  • Summer: Students often continue Group Project work through internships.

Year 2

  • Fall: Students work on analysis and produce an outline for their Group Project.
  • Winter: Students complete an academic defense and their final reports
  • Spring: Students present findings to the public, and produce an executive summary and additional deliverables as needed by the client.

Proposal Requirements

A successful project proposal will meet the following criteria:

  • Represent a significant environmental problem that requires the group to produce a solution
  • Focus on a precise science and policy or management question
  • Provide data for analysis
  • Match the interests, expertise, and capabilities of students and faculty
  • Present a feasible project scope, given student experience and availability (must propose a manageable scope of work for a group of 4-5 master’s students spending about 25% of their time during three academic quarters, or 9 months)
  • Anticipate financial needs and provide adequate support
  • Support and prioritize open and professional communication among all parties; proposals should outline a clear client point of contact
  • Projects that require completion before March (of the second project year) are not feasible and will not be considered
Three students stand by their research poster

Proposal Format & Content

Download a PDF of this format and content information.

Project proposals are limited to three pages (excluding references, budget and justification, and client letter of support).

  1. Title, descriptive of the environmental science and management problem to be solved.
  2. Name and contact information (email, phone, and affiliation) of the proposer(s). Proposers may be clients, faculty, and/or Bren students. If you have worked actively with a faculty member or student(s) to write the proposal, please list them as co-authors. If more than two Bren students contribute to the proposal, the client and/or students must select two primary student authors. If the proposal is selected, the two primary student authors will have the option to be guaranteed membership in the group.
  3. Client, including name, email, phone, and affiliation. The client is the primary representative of the client organization and the main point of contact for students. All clients listed on the proposal will be notified at the end of Winter Quarter (late March) regarding the status of the proposal. If you would prefer to limit notification of the proposal status to specific individuals, please note this in your proposal. 
  4. Proposed Project (3 pages):
    a. Objectives. What are the science and policy or management questions that need to be answered by the project? Focus on 1 to 3 concrete and achievable objectives.
    b. Significance. What is the context for this work? Why is this work important? Who is the target audience/client? Which other people (besides the client) would benefit from the results of this work?
    c. Background. Where is the project location? In general, how did the problem arise? What has been done to date, if known.
    d. Equity. Does the proposed project have the potential to address environmental justice issues? The US Environmental Protection Agency defines environmental justice as "the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, national origin, or income, with respect to the development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies. This goal will be achieved when everyone enjoys: (1) the same degree of protection from environmental and health hazards, and (2) equal access to the decision-making process to have a healthy environment in which to live, learn, and work."
    e. Available data. What data are available to address this problem? How and when can the students acquire the data for their analysis?
    f. Possible approaches. Briefly describe likely approaches that may be used to address the project objectives. One task for the students in a group project is to more fully develop the approaches that will best meet the project objectives, but suggestions from the client are useful in focusing the project at the beginning.
    g. Deliverables. Are there specific products that the client expects from the project, in addition to the final written report, executive summary, and oral presentation? What types of recommendations does the client expect to have as an outcome of the project?
    h. Internships. Clients are encouraged to provide at least one summer internship (see Internships section below) to a student(s) in the Group Project to further the goals of the project, help the student(s) develop professional skills, and build stronger relationships with the client. Please describe the number of internships and duties in the client’s letter of support.
  5. SUPPORTING MATERIALS (not counted toward the 3-page limit):
    a. Citations. Due to the scientific and technical nature of many interdisciplinary environmental problems, authors are encouraged to include citations to support their proposal.
    b. Budget and justification. Each project chosen by the Group Project Committee will receive $1,000 from the Bren School to cover the group’s basic operations. This funding will be held at the school and only accessible to the students. The students will determine how to allocate the funds to cover expenses such as conference calls, travel, conference fees, software, etc. If the proposed project requires additional funding for completion, the client must provide that funding. If needed, please include a budget with a description of anticipated costs that will be covered by the client.
    c. Client letter of support. Clients must submit a letter of support to clearly describe their commitment to sponsor at least one Bren student summer intern and provide data, additional funding, and/or any other resources for the project. The details of these commitments must be articulated clearly in the letter of support addressed to the Group Project Committee.
       c-i. Internships: Only include an internship in the proposal if the opportunity definitely will be offered by the client once the project is selected. Internships should further the objectives of the Group Project as well as provide students with opportunities to develop professional skills. An internship requires that the client or another individual in the client's organization mentor the student in a professional capacity. Group Projects with paid student internships are preferable and have a higher likelihood of being selected by the students. The client can pay the intern(s) directly, or make a tax-deductible gift to the Bren School’s Summer Internship Fellowship Fund restricted to the Group Project (see Funding below for details on how to make a gift). However, please include an unpaid internship if a valuable summer opportunity exists but funding is unavailable. 
    Note: The Bren School offers Summer Internship Funding (SIF) to support students completing low-paying or unpaid internships. The small stipend offsets a portion of the students' travel and living expenses. This funding is not a work stipend, is not guaranteed, and depends on financial resources in a given year.
       c-ii. Funding: If the proposed Group Project requires more funding than provided to the students by the Bren School, then the client is responsible for providing those funds. Please clearly describe the client's financial commitment in the letter of support.
    Note: If the client is providing direct support for the student intern(s), then the client is responsible for managing those funds. If the client is interested in making a gift to the Bren School for a specific Group Project through the Summer Internship Fellowship Fund, then the Bren School will select and provide the fellowship funding to the student intern(s). Please contact Assistant Dean for Partnerships & Development Dr. Lotus Vermeer ( for guidance on how to make a gift. Gifts can be restricted in support of a specific Group Project and are subject to UCSB’s 6% gift fee.
       c-iii. Data: If the client intends to provide data or facilitate the acquisition of data, the client should specify the type and content of the data and when it will be available to students. It is preferable for the data to be provided to the students with no stipulation for a non-disclosure agreement or restriction for publication. If a non-disclosure agreement is required, please describe the constraints around the use of the data. 

Limited Intellectual Property License

By participating in the Group Project, the client agrees that: (1) its logo and other "publicly available" intellectual property may be used by the Bren School (e.g., its students, faculty and staff) solely in connection with the specific Group Project in which the client participates, and (2) any Group Project’s deliverables containing the client’s logo or other intellectual property may be made publicly available via the Bren School’s website and other formats.

Upon written request by the client, a Group Project incorporating the client’s intellectual property will include a disclaimer identifying the client as the owner of the intellectual property and that all rights are reserved by the client. The client may, upon written request, withhold consent to use certain intellectual property owned by the client. 


Contact the Bren School using the form below. We can provide guidance regarding proposal content and format. We will also connect proposal authors with Bren faculty, staff, and students who can provide additional guidance and assistance in writing proposals.

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