Great Places to Get a PhD in Environmental Psychology: #1 Tradition

Needless to say to those who, like me, wish to pursue a doctoral study in it, environmental psychology is an interdisciplinary field dealing with relations between humans and their environment. Its core idea is that where something happens matters, in a way that the environment influences how people feel and think and what they do. So, if you’re about to make a decision about getting a PhD in EnvPsych, you may want to make a choice consistent with the discipline by considering carefully where you’ll study it.

A look at people and their environment – natural, built and social; Slope day at Cornell University; photo by foreverdigital

It’s important to note that the environment can be defined very broadly, including  natural environments, built environments and social settings. Also, learning environments and informational environments are especially interesting in this context.

I decided to write a series of posts on some great places to get a PhD in environmental psychology by the following criteria:

  1. The whole world is taken into consideration (this is my list of ideal options, regardless of practical factors like proximity or money; my goal was just to explore what’s out there);
  2. Great learning and social environment (Grad schools that already offer PhD programs in EnvPsyc, so there are other motivated people with similar interests for support and established researchers as professors);
  3. Inspiring built and natural surroundings that encourage intrinsic motivation and scientific curiosity about our relations with the environment.
The first two great places to get a PhD in Environmental Psychology are great for their tradition (and much more). They are Guildford, UK, and Ithaca, US.

1. Guildford, UK; photo by Steve Naylor

Guildford is the county town of Surrey, England, situated 27 miles (43 km) southwest of London, with 66,773 inhabitants. It is believed that the town was founded by Saxon settlers shortly after Roman authority had been removed from Britain (c.410AD). It is the home of Lewis Carrol (Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland) and the campus of the University of Surrey.

University of Surrey and Guildford Cathedral; photo by slideshow bob

The Department of Psychology at University of Surrey was the first in the world to establish a postgraduate program in Environmental Psychology in 1973 (it was an MSc then, and now you can get PhD as well). That explains why it’s on my list for the tradition. Environmental Psychology Research Group at the University of Surrey has an international reputation in research and teaching and is working under leadership of professor David Uzzell, who describes his interests as public understandings of climate change, critical psychological approaches to changing consumption and production practices, environmental risk, and identity and the past.

The Duke of Kent Building at “UniS”; photo by ⌘N

 “Community within community” feel of the campus experience and small town feel of Guildford, all within close proximity to city life in London should be inspiring setting for an environmental psychology student. However, it is the proximity of UK’s capital that  also makes everything quite expensive, wich is according to current UniS students, one thing they would change. Nevertheless, wouldn’t it be great to study environmental psychology where it all began?

2. Ithaca, New York, US – Cornell Universityphoto by matt.hintsa

Ithaca, NY, is another picturesque place offering great education. It has high overall quality of life and was once named  “America’s most enlightened town” (according to Utne Reader, 1997.) due its liberal policy. It is best known for being home to Cornell University, an Ivy League school of over 20,000 students.

Arts Quad in Snow; photo by foreverdigital

As far as I’m aware, this is the only Ivy League School offering a Ph.D. program in Environmental Psychology, here named Human Behavior and Design. It is a relatively new multidisciplinary program integrating the social sciences and design. According to its website, research focuses on environmental settings across a range of scales (from products to buildings to cities), that support safe, healthy and productive behaviors and foster sustainable design and lifestyles.

Beebe Lake and Fall Creek Gorge near Cornell campus; photo by foreverdigital

Here you get to collaborate with researchers such as Gary Evans, enjoy beautiful nature that surrounds the Cornell campus and have fun in the snow during winter (an average of 66.8 inches /169.7 cm annualy). Long and cold winters are something that many students say could do without, but other than that, they describe Cornell as very pleasant place to study.

Coming up next: Studying environmental psychology in pre-planned cities.

7 Responses to “Great Places to Get a PhD in Environmental Psychology: #1 Tradition”

  1. Thank you very much for this article – It’s great to see that someone else is considering the same type of path as me!

    • Hey Paula, there are some other interesting places around the world where environmental psychology seems to be quite strong, and I’m about to write more on this topic. I might have been skimping my work on this blog for a while, but your comment nudges me to keep on writing. Do you already have your favourites?

  2. Thanks for your research, I would love to see the rest of the list. I am currently teaching so are there any schools that offer the PHD online?

  3. I’m really interested in this field (I took some related courses in my undergrad) and I’m looking into doing a PhD. My one concern is finding a job after. Do you know what kinds of settings one can work in with a PhD in environmental psychology?

    • Hi Parisa, I think it depends a lot on where you live – environmental psychology is well-recognized in some countries and not so much in others. Some environmental psychologists collaborate with architects, and some work in pro-environmental organizations. However, I rarely see “environmental-psychologist-needed” job listing, so I guess you need to be prepared for more proactive approach to get a job. Lately I’ve been trying to get some practitioners to share their experience with environmental psychology, so hopefully there will be some interesting interviews soon and you’ll be able to get more informative answers.

  4. Hi Sabrina! Another teacher! What do you teach? I hope you were able to find my other posts about getting a PhD in environmental psychology in big cities and pre-planned cities (just in case, here are the links). And here’s the result of my research on getting it online – I had no luck in finding one, just some related courses, but prof. Susan Saegert at CUNY was kind enough to offer my another course involving her and other environmental psychology faculty and students: Reassessing Inequality and Reimagining the 21st-Century: East Harlem Focus. But, according to your mail address, you live/work in NYC, so maybe you could check in person what they have to offer. If you do, please let me know about it. Judging from what can be seen online, their work seems amazing!


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