Department of Environmental Science and Policy

USM Unveils Faster, Less Expensive Pathway to Master’s Degree

USM has launched an initiative to give students a faster, less expensive pathway from an undergraduate degree to a master’s degree in a professional field.

The “accelerated admissions” initiative allows undergraduate students majoring in Environmental Planning and Policy, or Geography-Anthropology, to combine their senior year with the first year of graduate work in the USM Muskie School master’s degree program in Community Planning and Development. These undergraduate programs share strong disciplinary connections with the master’s in Community Planning and Development.

“This offers our students the opportunity to earn both an undergraduate degree and a master’s degree in less time than it would take to earn them separately,” said Professor Charles Colgan, chair of the Community Planning and Development master’s program. Colgan championed implementation of the accelerated admissions program and reached out to colleagues in Environmental Planning & Policy and Geography-Anthropology. “And,” added Colgan,  “students and their families won’t lose sight of the fact that there are savings involved. In addition to saving time to a professional degree, they take graduate courses in their senior year at the less expensive, undergraduate tuition level.”

Environmental Planning & Policy and Geography-Anthropology majors who are in the spring semester of their junior year can apply for conditional admission to the master’s in Community Planning and Development. If accepted, the students will take courses throughout their senior year that will count toward completion of both their undergraduate and master’s degrees. Seniors can complete up to 24 credits which can be applied toward the 48 credits required for the master’s degree.

Upon completion of their senior year, those students who have met minimum grade requirements will transition to full graduate student status.

Applications are being accepted this semester.

Graduates of the master’s program are employed as local and regional planners, directors of land trusts, and serve as environmental research fellows, elected officials, and independent consultants. The majority of CPD graduates work in Maine but graduates also work throughout the country.

"Higher education needs to provide students with clear, cost-effective pathways to a degree and a successful life after graduation," said USM President Theo Kalikow. "This initiative offers a wonderful model on how we can leverage our resources so that we provide a pathway beyond an undergrad degree to graduate studies and a career in a professional field."

Interested students should contact their advisors: Professor of Community Planning and Development Charles Colgan (; Professor of Environmental Science Rob Sanford (; or Associate Professor of Geography-Anthropology Firooza Pavri (

PHOTO: During a Community Development Workshop held in December 2013, Environmental Planning and Policy students present a stormwater management plan for the USM Portland campus.