Environmental Justice Certificate

The University of Michigan has a long-standing commitment to the academic study of environmental justice. In fact, U-M is the site of the first environmental justice curriculum of any major university in the nation. 

Environmental justice refers to cultural norms and values, rules, regulations, behaviors, and policies that determine whether people will have confidence that their environment is safe, nurturing, and productive. Environmental justice is most successful when there are no environmental barriers to one's personal or collective potential; it is supported by decent paying and safe jobs, quality schools and recreation, decent housing and adequate health care, democratic decision-making, personal empowerment, and communities free of the violence that often emerges from poverty. Environmental justice communities are characterized by respect for cultural and biological diversity and a commitment to distributive justice.

The certificate coordinator is Associate Professor Rebecca Hardin.


The Environmental Justice Certificate program aims to provide fundamental skills and knowledge, methods and applications of environmental justice to enhance the education of students from a wide range of relevant disciplines at the University of Michigan. The objectives are as follows:

  • Examine the historical, scientific, social, legal, cultural, and political complexities of the relationship between people and the built and natural environment. Examine past research on the environment and design new research to study and enhance our knowledge of how race, class, and gender affect our environmental experiences, attitudes and perceptions, and influence how we construct environmental discourses.
  • Master research methods and approaches to rigorously study perspectives about and impediments to safe, sustainable communities for all people.
  • Communicate effectively in written, oral, and visual forms to a wide variety of audiences, both academic and popular or policy-oriented. This goal entails two more concrete objectives:
    • Participate in efforts to educate policymakers, educators, lawmakers, health professionals, industry leaders, and the public about environmental inequalities.
    • Participate in educational and strategic planning efforts to help communities take effective action to ameliorate harmful environmental conditions.


The Environmental Justice Certificate program consists of 15 credit hours. Five three-credit courses are required, with two selected from the list of four core courses, and the rest selected according to student interests and competing requirements. In the selection of the third, fourth, and fifth courses, the student's advisor will work with the Environmental Justice Certificate Coordinating Committee and the student to arrive at the most appropriate courses to take. Additionally, an experience related to the goals of the certificate that is defined and approved by the Environmental Justice certificate faculty coordinator is required. The experience must be planned with the faculty coordinator and may include (but is not limited to) a professional experience, participation in an on-campus event, or engagement with a community organization.


Students should select two of the following core courses:

  • NRE 593: Environmental Justice: Research and Policy Developments (3 credits)
  • NRE 501: Environmental Justice: Theoretical Approaches (3 credits)
  • NRE 501: Conservation Justice (cross-listed with Conservation Anthropology, permanent course number pending, 3 credits)

The remaining nine credits may be selected from a long list of courses. Although not exclusive, a list of courses that would be considered appropriate for certificate students to take would include the following. Courses not on this list would need approval by the Environmental Justice Plan Coordinator.


  • POLSCI 730: Women and Employment Policy (3 credits)
  • Sociology 622: Social Stratification (3 credits)
  • LAW 805/803: Environmental Justice (3 credits)
  • EHS 500: Principles of Environmental Health Sciences (3 credits)


  • EPID 705: Epidemiology in Public Health Policy (1 credit)
  • NRE 540: GIS and Natural Resource Applications (3 credits)
  • LAW 679: Environmental Law (3 credits)
  • EHS 572/NRE 514: Environmental Impact Assessment (2 credits)
  • HBEHED733: Community-Based Participatory Research (3 credits)
  • EHS 688: Topics in Environmental Health Sciences (1 credit)
  • NRE 562:  Environmental Policy & Politics (3 credits)
  • NRE 532: Natural Resource Conflict Management Theory (3 credits)
  • NRE 533: Negotiation Skills in Environmental Dispute Resolution (3 credits)
  • NRE 687: Landscape Analysis and Planning (4 credits)
  • HBEHED 640: Community Organization for Health Education (3 credits)
  • HBEHED 690: Environmental Health Education (3 credits)
  • EHS 574: Environmental Chemistry (3 credits)
  • LAW 791: Environmental Crimes (3 credits)
  • LAW 771: How to Save the Planet (3 credits)
  • EHS 680: Environmental Management of Hazardous Substances (3 credits)


Application checklist

  • Application form
  • GRE scores
  • Transcripts 
  • Résumé
  • A one-page letter to the Steering Committee requesting admission. This letter will include the proposed course of study and, for students already in a U-M program, a signature endorsement by the student's advisor.  
  • Students already enrolled in a Rackham or non-Rackham graduate degree program must complete at least one term before applying.

                                  DEADLINES:  February 1 for fall admission; October 1 for winter admission.

Other important information

The following general rules apply:

  • Only graduate level courses may be used to meet certificate requirements; no transfer credit or undergraduate courses may be applied. All credits must be completed on the University of Michigan's Ann Arbor campus.
  • Not more than one-sixth of the credits required for a master’s degree may be double-counted with a certificate.
  • Not more seven credits of coursework for the Environmental Justice Certificate may be double-counted with a master’s. Double-counted credits may not be used to fulfill requirements of other degrees or certificates.
  • Dual-degree students who are pursuing a certificate program can not double-count any credits; the certificate program is considered free-standing.
  • The student must have a minimum cumulative grade point average of B (3.0 on a 4.0 point scale) in courses for the certificate program. Only courses eligible for Rackham credit may be used to meet certificate requirements.

Graduation requirements

  • Upon admission to the program, meet with the certificate faculty coordinator (Rebecca Hardin) to clearly outline a plan to fulfill all of the certificate requirements in accordane with the conditions outlined in this document.
  • Complete Rackham's dual-degree election form prior to graduation, and submit to Registrars at both programs.
  • Apply for graduation from certificate program through Wolverine Access, similarly as one applies for graduation of degree program.