The mission of the M.S. program in Environmental Science and Health is to equip students to
become scientists in the interdisciplinary environmental science fields through a background in
coursework and the completion of a research-based thesis. The desired outcomes were
determined by the core faculty, in consultation with the students. This list of outcomes and
assessment measures will be distributed to all of the graduate students in the program.
Desired student learning outcomes include:
1) Ability to find/retrieve information from scientific literature and/or other databases
There is a large body of scientific literature, found in peer-reviewed journal articles as well as in
government publications and public or private databases. In order to obtain necessary data,
and/or to facilitate the interpretation of the results of their own experiments, students must
become skilled in the retrieval of information from these sources. Students generally enter the
program with some experience in this area, but many have not had access to the range of
resources available at UNI. Also, due to the interdisciplinary nature of the program, students
may need to familiarize themselves with resources outside their traditional disciplinary field.
2) Critical analysis of scientific literature
Once students have retrieved relevant articles from the scientific literature, they must be able
to critically analyze the techniques used and the conclusions drawn by the authors. Most
graduate students have had little or no prior training in this area, and consequently will refine
these skills during their graduate career.
3) Communication skills (oral and verbal)
The culmination of any scientific research project is the presentation of the results and
conclusions to the scientific community (and potentially to the public). Students, therefore,
need to learn to communicate effectively to a wide range of audiences, ranging from experts in
the field to peer colleagues to the general public.
4) Content base in interdisciplinary environmental fields (core classes)
Environmental science is an inherently interdisciplinary field. Students typically enter the
program with training in one of the traditional scientific disciplines. At the beginning of their
careers, therefore, students need to be exposed to core knowledge and techniques in related
disciplines. Ultimately, students will come to appreciate the cross-disciplinary approach.
5) Content knowledge in specialized field (electives)
As each student pursues his/her research thesis subject, he/she will benefit from advanced
coursework (lecture, discussion, laboratory or field based) in specific areas. The program allows
students to select the most suitable electives from among the UNI course offerings, in
consultation with the advisor and graduate committee members.
6) Ability to synthesize information and place results in context
One of the challenges in the sciences is to be able to place your work in the context of the
larger body of knowledge. We challenge our students to synthesize information and to be able
to “tell a story” that places their work in context.
7) Experimental design, data generation and collection (laboratory and/or field)
The M.S. program requires that students complete a research-based thesis, necessitating the
design of experiments and the collection of data. These experiments vary widely and can
include laboratory and/or field research. Experimental design is typically a joint effort between
students and advisors, but the collection of data (following standard quality assurance/quality
control procedures) is primarily the responsibility of the student and is the basis for the thesis.
8) Data analysis (statistics, etc.)
Once data is collected, it must be analyzed. This skill may involve statistical analysis,
identification of patterns or trends, or analysis of temporal and/or spatial relationships.
9) Teamwork
In contrast to the stereotype of the solitary researcher, scientific research is routinely
conducted by collaborative research teams. Therefore, students should gain experience in
working in multidisciplinary teams and appreciate ways to maximize productive contributions
from each member of the team while minimizing the potential for conflict.