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Boston College Law School, Tufts Graduate School of Arts & Sciences Announce Dual Degree Program in Law & Environmental Policy & Planning

NEWTON AND MEDFORD/SOMERVILLE, Mass. (September 2010)--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 law degree in combination with a degree in urban and environmental policy and planning.

Beginning this fall, the concentrated program will offer a Master of Arts in Urban and Environmental Policy and Planning and Juris Doctor degree 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), which offers a distinguished program in Urban and Environmental Policy and Planning (UEP), but which does not have a law school, and Boston College, which has nationally-recognized environmental and land law programs, but has no master’s programs in environmental science and policy 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 like this.” Plater cited Tuft’s UEP faculty member and BC Law Adjunct Professor Jonathan Witten, a certified planner and lawyer and Tufts’ coordinator of the dual degree program, for writing the proposal adopted by both institutions.

Julian Agyeman, professor and chair of the UEP department at Tufts, praised the new program as a much-needed educational opportunity for students interested in a career in environmental policy and planning. “Planning and policy analysis guide future development patterns, while the law frames the mechanisms, capabilities and limits of governmental roles in this process,” said Agyeman. “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. 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 BC Law. In subsequent years, students will 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 faculty, students will chart out an appropriate course of study during their first year in the dual degree program. A committee of advisors drawn from both schools will ensure 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 will be 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,” said Pepall. “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.

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