New Energy and Environment Secondary Attracts Students from Diverse Fields

In its inaugural semester, Harvard’s new Energy and Environment secondary field, offered through the Environmental Science and Public Policy concentration in coordination with the Harvard University Center for the Environment, has drawn 20 students from concentrations across the life sciences, social sciences, humanities, and engineering.

When creating the secondary field, administrators aimed to offer a distinct alternative to the ESPP concentration. In fact, there are a number of courses in the secondary field in the humanities and social sciences that do not count for credit for the ESPP concentration.

The secondary field aims to “provide every Harvard undergraduate the opportunity to become exposed to the issues of climate change and energy technology,” according to Geology professor Daniel P. Schrag, the director of the Center for the Environment.

Paul R. Moorcroft, head tutor for the ESPP concentration, said the faculty recognized a broader interest in environmental issues among students of all disciplines.

Eric Simms, the Educational Programs Manager in the Center for the Environment, said faculty members had an untapped “interest in drawing students from the social sciences and humanities.”


Of the 20 students pursuing the secondary, eight are seniors, 11 are juniors, and one is a sophomore. Sixty percent of the students are concentrating in the social sciences or humanities, and the other 40 percent are concentrating in the natural sciences or engineering, according to an email from Simms.

Students pursuing the secondary must complete four courses—one foundational course and three upper-level courses—as well as attend one of several evening discussions with faculty members who are associated with the Center for the Environment.

“The concentration has much more of a focus on the public policy side of things,... [while] the secondary field is designed to be much broader in exposure,” Simms said.

Anticipating higher student enrollment in the coming years, Schrag said that the challenge for him and his colleagues would be to provide proper advising for each student in the secondary field.

“One of the distinctions between this secondary field and others, is that we’re very committed to good advising, not just checking off the requirements and getting the certificate in the secondary field,” he said.

Simms expressed his hope that the secondary field will “reach out to a lot of students across a whole variety of concentrations, so that when students are leaving Harvard they are more informed and better versed in energy and environment issues.”

—Staff writer Jessica Kim can be reached at

—Staff writer Steven H. Tenzer can be reached at



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