The walk “down the hill” on Prospect Street from the Divinity School — the highest geographical point on Yale’s campus — to the School of the Environment, has been described by students as representative of their experience of the unique relationship that exists between the two graduate schools.
“I always felt like I was moving through a portal as I went up and down the street, because the social and intellectual environment is so different at the two schools,” said Elizabeth Allison, an early student of the religion and ecology joint degree program.
Allison explained that students get the “perennial” through spiritual and ethical exploration at the Divinity School and the “urgent” through the study of environmental degradation and injustice at the School of the Environment. Somewhere during that walk between classes, the students are equidistant from both schools, and many feel that it represents the broader intersection of their disciplines. As these students walk up and down the street, they embrace the scientific and the spiritual, surrounded by a world dense with meaning in both directions.
Yale, like many universities throughout the world, offers a wide range of joint degree programs for its graduate students. Joint degree programs are characterized by enrollment in two concurrent graduate programs offered between graduate schools in pursuit of one degree. The Yale School of the Environment offers 11 joint degree programs which its joint degree website explains “are ideal for students interested in applying environmental management frameworks to particular research or professional contexts beyond the scope of YSE’s traditional offerings.” The Yale Divinity School also has seven joint degree programs.
Most joint degrees offered at Yale and elsewhere are considered practical with respect to professional applicability. But there is one School of the Environment and Divinity School joint degree program which does not at first glance appear to be as practical as its counterparts: the joint degree in religion and ecology. Professors John Grim and Mary Evelyn Tucker, jointly appointed senior lecturers and research scholars at the School of the Environment have championed the necessity of the degree. Science and policy are necessary, they said, but not entirely sufficient, in addressing the environmental crises we face today. From their view, the incorporation of religious and ethical frameworks is crucial to understanding and appealing to the factors that motivate substantive change. Tucker and Grim have spent much of their careers expanding this field of interdisciplinary scholarship as the co-founders and directors of the Yale Forum on Religion and Ecology, a forum that hosts conferences and publishes research from a range of religious and environmental scholarship which has been based at Yale since 2006.