Advice for Successfully Navigating an Interdisciplinary Environmental Studies Program

Over 40 years ago, Stearns (1987) published a note in the Bulletin of the Ecological Society of America titled, “Some modest advice for graduate students,” prompting a playful rebuke by Huey (1987) titled, “Reply to Stearns: Some acynical advice for graduate students.” Since then, numerous additional papers have been published that describe the graduate education process, a few of which provide advice directly to graduate students. The majority of these papers target doctoral students, specifically those who ultimately seek academic positions (e.g., Baker and Lattuca 2009, Boden et al. 2011), despite that the rate of postdoctoral academic employment in U.S. physical and life science fields dropped by more than five percentage points between 2009 and 2014 (NSF 2015). Further, only a fraction of these papers describe the graduate education experience from the graduate student perspective, and those that do only address doctoral students (e.g., Graybill et al. 2006, Moslemi et al. 2009). In our review of the literature, we did not find any publications that address master's student education, despite that the great majority of US graduate students pursue master's—not doctoral—degrees. In 2016, 90% of first‐time U.S. graduate students were enrolled in programs leading to a master's degree or graduate certificate, and 83% of graduate degrees awarded in 2015–2016 were master's degrees (Okahana and Zhou 2017).

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