Twin Cities campus
Twin Cities Campus

Science, Technology, and Environmental Policy Minor

HHH Administration
Hubert H. Humphrey School of Public Affairs
Link to a list of faculty for this program.
Contact Information
Student Services, Hubert H. Humphrey School of Public Affairs, University of Minnesota, 301 19th Avenue South, Minneapolis, MN 55455 (612-624-3800; fax: 612-626-0002)
  • Program Type: Graduate minor related to major
  • Requirements for this program are current for Fall 2022
  • Length of program in credits (master's): 9
  • Length of program in credits (doctoral): 12
  • This program does not require summer semesters for timely completion.
The graduate minor in Science, Technology, and Environmental Policy (STEP) provides students with the skills and knowledge to study public issues arising at the intersection of science, technology, environment, and society that shape economic development, environmental sustainability, human health, and wellbeing. Students choose from the following focus areas: energy and environmental policy; water policy; climate change policy; emerging technologies and society; urban infrastructure systems; or urban agriculture and food systems policy.
Program Delivery
  • via classroom (the majority of instruction is face-to-face)
Prerequisites for Admission
The preferred undergraduate GPA for admittance to the program is 3.00.
Special Application Requirements:
Students interested in the minor are strongly encouraged to confer with their major field advisor and director of graduate studies, and the STEP director of graduate studies regarding feasibility and requirements.
For an online application or for more information about graduate education admissions, see the General Information section of this website.
Program Requirements
Use of 4xxx courses towards program requirements is not permitted.
Up to 3 credits may be taken S/N. All other courses must be completed with grades of B or better. Minor field coursework is chosen in consultation with the STEP advisor/director of graduate studies.
Required Course (3 credits)
Take the following course on the A-F grading basis:
PA 5711 - Science, Technology & Environmental Policy (3.0 cr)
Environmental Systems Thinking (3 credits)
Select at least 3 credits from the following:
PA 5715 - Deliberating Science, Technology, and Environmental Policy (1.5 cr)
PA 5722 - Economics of Environmental Policy (3.0 cr)
PA 5741 - Risk, Resilience and Decision Making (1.5 cr)
PA 5752 - Material-Energy Flows & Sustainable Development (3.0 cr)
or PA 5761 - Environmental Systems Analysis at the Food-Energy-Water Nexus (3.0 cr)
Focus Area (3 credits)
Select at least 3 credits from the following:
PA 5243 - Environmental Justice in Urban Planning & Public Policy (3.0 cr)
PA 5721 -  Energy Systems and Policy (3.0 cr)
PA 5723 - Water Policy (3.0 cr)
PA 5724 - Climate Change Policy (3.0 cr)
PA 5731 - Emerging Sciences and Technologies: Policy, Ethics and Law (3.0 cr)
PA 5751 - Addressing Climate and Energy Challenges at the Local Scale (3.0 cr)
PA 5790 - Topics in Science, Technology, and Environmental Policy (1.0-3.0 cr)
Program Sub-plans
Students are required to complete one of the following sub-plans.
Students may not complete the program with more than one sub-plan.
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· Hubert H. Humphrey School of Public Affairs

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PA 5711 - Science, Technology & Environmental Policy
Credits: 3.0 [max 3.0]
Typically offered: Every Fall
Interplay of science, technology, the environment, and society. Approaches from across the social sciences will cover how science and technology can create new environmental pressures as well as policy challenges in a range of spheres from climate change to systems of intellectual property and international development.
PA 5715 - Deliberating Science, Technology, and Environmental Policy
Credits: 1.5 [max 6.0]
Grading Basis: A-F only
Typically offered: Periodic Fall & Spring
Exploration of the conceptual and ethical dimensions of science, technology, and environmental policy. Discussion-based course with rotating topics.
PA 5722 - Economics of Environmental Policy
Credits: 3.0 [max 3.0]
Typically offered: Every Fall
Introduction to economic principles and methods as they apply to environmental issues such as climate change, biodiversity conservation, and water quality. Course will cover benefit-cost analysis, methods of environmental valuation, as well as critiques of market-based solutions to environmental challenges.
PA 5741 - Risk, Resilience and Decision Making
Credits: 1.5 [max 3.0]
Grading Basis: OPT No Aud
Typically offered: Every Spring
Interplay between risk analysis, decision making, and policy in the context of new and emerging technologies, environmental and human well-being, risk and resilience. Assessment methods; risk management processes, issues and methods; role/treatment of uncertainty; factors in decision making; risk-based rule making; public values; risk communication and perception. Scientific, technical, social, political, and ethical issues. prereq: Grad student or instr consent
PA 5752 - Material-Energy Flows & Sustainable Development
Credits: 3.0 [max 3.0]
Grading Basis: A-F only
Typically offered: Every Fall
How do material and energy flows shape the development of a sustainable society? Part I introduces concepts of human wellbeing, sustainable development, the role of natural resources and key physical infrastructure in advancing Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Part II describes ways to measure progress toward SDGs, particularly those related to material and energy flows. Part III highlights pathways to work toward SDGs, emphasizing principles and concepts from environmental economics.
PA 5761 - Environmental Systems Analysis at the Food-Energy-Water Nexus
Credits: 3.0 [max 3.0]
Typically offered: Every Spring
Agricultural lands, water resources, and energy production and transport are interconnected systems with implications for policy and management at local to global scales. This course will explore contemporary issues at the nexus of food, energy, and water with a focus on Midwestern landscapes. Specific topics include farm policy, permitting of pipelines and energy production, mitigation of air and water pollution, and strategies to incentivize the conservation and restoration of landscapes. Students will develop professional skills in systems thinking, scenario analysis, science communication, facilitation, and collective leadership.
PA 5243 - Environmental Justice in Urban Planning & Public Policy
Credits: 3.0 [max 3.0]
Grading Basis: A-F or Aud
Typically offered: Every Spring
Environmental racism can be defined as policies and practices that result in communities of Black, Indigenous and other people of color (BIPoC communities) being overexposed to environmental harms and being denied access to environmental goods. The environmental justice (EJ) movement in the United States was birthed in the 1980s with the aim of ending environmental racism. Early EJ activism was led by Black rural communities protesting the disproportionate presence of toxic waste facilities in their neighborhoods and Latinx migrant farmworkers who were overexposed to harmful pesticides. Central to the course is the understanding that structural racism, in the form of social, political, and economic forces, has denied BIPoC individuals and communities their rights to live in clean environments and access natural resources that allow communities to build and maintain their physical, mental, emotion, and fiscal health. Although the course focuses on race and racism, it takes as axiomatic that racism is intertwined with other systems of oppression including, but not limited to, sexism, classism, ableism, homophobia, and transphobia. The course begins by tracing the history of the EJ movement and unpacking the terms ?racism? and ?justice.? The main body of the course will focus on a series of issues that EJ scholars and activists address including pollution, greening, transportation, disasters, and climate change. The course ends with discussions and reflections on our roles, responsibilities and possibilities as public policy and planning scholars, researchers and practitioners to work towards ending environmental racism and achieving EJ for all. The required ?readings? for the course will include academic journal articles, news stories, governmental policies, podcasts, videos, poetry, and short stories. This will allow us to understand the theoretical and methodological approaches to EJ activism and research and explore popular and creative forms of knowledge about EJ which will add depth to our understanding and analysis of relevant plans and policies. Our time together in the classroom will primarily be a mix of lectures, group discussions, in-class exercises, and occasionally guest speakers. While we will reflect on some international issues and materials, we will largely focus on EJ in the United States.
PA 5721 - Energy Systems and Policy
Credits: 3.0 [max 3.0]
Typically offered: Every Fall
Impact of energy production/consumption choices on environmental quality, sustainable development, and other economic/social goals. Emphasizes public policy choices for energy/environment, linkages between them.
PA 5723 - Water Policy
Credits: 3.0 [max 3.0]
Course Equivalencies: PA 5723/WRS 5101
Typically offered: Every Spring
Sociocultural, legal, economic, and environmental forces affecting supply/use of water by individuals, sectors, and governance institutions. Historical trends; water laws in United States and internationally. Institutional structures for managing water at federal, state, and local levels. Current water-related issues/policies. prereq: Grad student or instr consent
PA 5724 - Climate Change Policy
Credits: 3.0 [max 3.0]
Typically offered: Every Fall
Existing and proposed approaches to mitigate and adapt to climate change through policies that cross scales of governance (from local to global) and impact a wide range of sectors. Exploration of climate change policy from a variety of disciplinary approaches and perspectives, emphasizing economic logic, ethical principles, and institutional feasibility. How policy can be shaped in the face of a variety of competing interests to achieve commonly desired outcomes. Students develop a deep knowledge of climate change in particular countries through a team final project. prereq: Intro microecon (such as Econ 1101 or equiv)
PA 5731 - Emerging Sciences and Technologies: Policy, Ethics and Law
Credits: 3.0 [max 3.0]
Typically offered: Periodic Fall & Spring
This interdisciplinary course will examine issues at the nexus of public policy, ethics, law, and emerging sciences and technologies (ES&T) including nanotechnology, genetic and biomedical engineering, synthetic biology, and artificial intelligence. Topics we will explore include the role of science and technology as both a tool for and the subject of policy and law; the policy, ethical, economic, and legal implications of ES&T research and development; environmental and human health risk analysis and regulation (e.g., EPA, FDA, OSHA, and state and local regulatory mechanisms); intellectual property issues; liability issues; and global impacts. Topics will be approached from the perspective of different stakeholders (e.g., federal agencies, industry, academic researchers, the environment, international organizations, and the public) and in the context of different application areas (e.g., drugs, devices, food, agriculture, energy, environmental remediation) using a variety of interdisciplinary approaches. Students with a broad range of interests are encouraged to enroll.
PA 5751 - Addressing Climate and Energy Challenges at the Local Scale
Credits: 3.0 [max 3.0]
Grading Basis: A-F or Aud
Typically offered: Every Spring
Examine energy and climate innovations at local and community scales. Understand how to implement local policies, projects, and programs with a diverse set of perspectives on energy issues. Develop professional and analytical skills that support solutions to energy and climate challenges.
PA 5790 - Topics in Science, Technology, and Environmental Policy
Credits: 1.0 -3.0 [max 9.0]
Typically offered: Periodic Fall & Spring
Selected topics.