Boston College Law and Tufts Graduate School of Arts and Sciences Offer a New Dual Degree Program

September 3, 2010

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Patrick Collins

NEWTON, Mass. and MEDFORD/SOMERVILLE, Mass.--Boston College Law School and the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences at Tufts University have launched a program that allows students to earn a degree in law in combination with a degree in urban and environmental policy and planning.

As of fall 2010, the concentrated program offers students the Master of Arts in Urban and Environmental Policy and Planning and Juris Doctor degrees in four years rather than the five normally required. This new collaboration plays on the strengths of two Greater Boston institutions. Tufts Graduate School of Arts and Sciences (GSAS) offers a distinguished program in Urban and Environmental Policy and Planning (UEP) but the university has no law school. Boston College has one of the top law schools in the country, with an extensive nationally-recognized environmental and land law program, but has no masters programs in environmental science and policy and planning.
 
"We’re very excited to be able to offer this new dual degree," says Zyg Plater, a Boston College law professor who was instrumental in setting up the program. "It teams up two highly-ranked programs in these two fields. No other graduate program in New England offers an opportunity quite like this." Urban and Environmental Policy and Planning faculty member and BCLS adjunct professor Jonathan Witten, a certified planner and lawyer, wrote the proposal adopted by both institutions and is Tufts University’s coordinator of the dual degree program.
 
"Law and planning are inexorably linked," says Julian Agyeman, professor and chair of the UEP department at Tufts. "Planning and policy analysis guide future development patterns, while the law frames the mechanisms, capabilities and limits of governmental roles in this process. There’s an important relationship here and we hope to give students who enroll in the dual degree program a more complete understanding of the entire process. Planning and law immerse students in broad debates and critical thinking about the environment, human settlements, social and environmental justice, corporate responsibility and land use," continued Agyeman. "All of these issues are guided by constitutional, equitable and pragmatic principles."
 
Students will apply to both schools independently and during their first year take courses exclusively through either GSAS’s UEP or the law school. In subsequent years, students split their courses between the two schools. Over the course of their dual degree studies, students will be offered a range of courses at UEP including environmental justice, urban planning and design, and water resources policy. Relevant law school courses include administrative agency process, environmental law, land use regulation, environmental regulatory compliance, and real estate finance.
 
With program coordinators and academic advisers drawn from both GSAS’s UEP department and the BC law school faculty, students chart out an appropriate course of study during their first year in the dual degree program. A committee of advisors drawn from both schools ensures that students are mentored in their coursework as they proceed through the program. By transferring reciprocal credits toward each degree and concentrating their studies, students are able to complete both degrees in four years.
 
Lynne Pepall, dean of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences at Tufts, emphasized that the new program is consistent with the overall goals of GSAS. "Our mission is to develop professional master’s degree programs that serve our community and our students," she says. "It has become increasingly clear that effective environmental and land use planning requires an understanding of both the legal and policy-making institutions governing the growth and functioning of our urban communities, and a sustainable economy."
 
Students with training and certification in both disciplines will be attractive candidates for positions in governmental and nongovernmental institutions engaged in the complexities of urban and environmental planning and design. They will be highly qualified to work as urban planners, as state and federal environmental regulators, and as lawyers advising real estate developers in land use and zoning disputes.

 Tufts University, located on three Massachusetts campuses in Boston, Medford/Somerville, and Grafton, and in Talloires, France, is recognized among the premier research universities in the United States. Founded in 1852, Tufts enjoys a global reputation for academic excellence and for the preparation of students as leaders in a wide range of professions. A growing number of teaching and research initiatives span all Tufts campuses, and collaboration among the faculty and students in the undergraduate, graduate, and professional programs across the university’s schools is widely encouraged.

Founded in 1909, the Tufts Graduate School of Arts and Sciences (GSAS) has a long and distinguished history with alumni who have made significant contributions to their academic fields and to the practice of their professions. Students have the option of pursuing academic tracks (with doctoral and masters programs ranging from art history and philosophy to biology and chemistry, from history and English to mathematics and physics) or professional tracks. The professional programs are practice-based, with courses, research opportunities, and field experiences that give students training for careers in fields such as childhood education, teaching, occupational therapy, nonprofit management, and urban planning. Professional programs are available through the departments of child development, education, occupational therapy, and urban and environmental policy and planning.