of what a broadened doctoral education could be, we also aim at attracting the strongest possible students, and we organized PEI-STEP as a competitive fellowship program.
To ensure that the environmental policy aspect of their education is substantive, PEI-STEP students must take a series of three courses (two required, one elective) in the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs and write a policy research paper. The courses qualify the students for the Graduate Certificate in Science, Technology, and Environmental Policy from the Woodrow Wilson School. The policy paper is included as part of the students’ theses and intended to be of publishable quality. To help in this endeavor, PEI-STEP students have a second advisor (often from the Wilson School), who supervises their environmental policy research.
The obvious challenges from adding such substantial requirements to a doctoral program are these:
How to support the students financially while they are not pursuing funded research or helping teach in their home departments; and
How to fulfill the added requirements without unduly lengthening what is usually an already long graduate career (at least by historical standards).
The first problem is solved fairly adequately by providing half-fellowship support to the students for the two years that they are devoting part of their time to policy work. The second problem has no good solution, and we simply hope to mitigate it by selecting particularly strong students. This makes the selection process critically important. In addition to having a good academic record and strong letters of recommendation the PEI-STEP candidates are expected to present a detailed plan for their policy research. This research plan is developed with the help of the PEI-STEP coordinator and the student’s would-be policy advisor. (See the 1999 PEI-STEP advertisement in Attachment 1.)
The organization of the PEI-STEP program resulted from thoughtful reflection, careful planning, and numerous discussions. Three years after its inception, how in fact has it worked? What effect has it had on Princeton’s graduate education? What have been the consequences for the students involved?
The first conclusion to be drawn from the PEI-STEP experiment is that such a program is of interest to only a small number of students. The potentially interested population, i.e., the graduate students with a professional interest in the environment at Princeton includes a sizable fraction of those in civil and environmental engineering (CEE), geosciences (GEO), and ecology and evolutionary biology (EEB); a smaller, unknown fraction of those in chemistry (CHM), chemical engineering (CHE), and electrical engineering (EE); and a smattering of individuals from other departments. The pool of possible applicants is probably on the order of 20 to 30 per year, somewhat more than 10 percent of the graduate student cohort at Princeton. The program has gotten 22 completed applications over three rounds and only a few more expressions of interest; a total corresponding to about a third of the potential pool. This is so even though the environmental field is unusually well suited for a broadening of the Ph.D. education: the students it attracts have interests that go beyond pure science and in their careers they will often benefit from a background in policy. Thus, a generalization of a PEI-STEP-type program to other fields would likely attract an even smaller proportion of eligible students.
The 14 students who have enrolled in PEI-STEP over the past two years are distributed evenly among five departments (CHM, GEO, EEB, EE, CEE) and between engineers and scientists. Their projects have ranged widely, encompassing analysis of environmental risk, economic cost, and ecological impact (see list of publications, Attachment 2). The quality of these projects has also ranged widely from modest papers to full peer-reviewed articles. As seen in Attachment 2, of the first 10 projects, at least 5 should result in published articles. While the numbers are too small at this point for useful