Civil and Environmental Engineering

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Environmental Engineering, Management & Policy

Interdisciplinary focus on the nexus of social, technical and economic systems to address current and future environmental challenges

Abkowitz and Ewing, VCEMS Environmental Engineering graduate students focused in the environmental engineering, management and policy area participate in VCEMS, the Vanderbilt Center for Environmental Management. The Center is a Vanderbilt University system-wide initiative jointly led by the School of Engineering, the Owen Graduate School of Management, and the Law School. VCEMS activities are interdisciplinary and focus on environmental business, management and technology.


apply now An example of the new generation of environmental management and policy problems that will require innovative approaches is water stewardship. We are now living in an era of "post-stationarity," that is, a period when assumptions about stable environmental and ecosystem conditions are no longer valid. Consequently, for the rest of the century, the world is expected to face much higher levels of risk associated with water stressed regions, both in the form of access to clean water as well as exposure to severe floods and droughts.Environmental issues are arguably the most pressing problem of the 21st century. These problems stem from patterns of human interaction with the earth and its ecosystems, and from unsustainable use of natural resources.

Ensuring sustainability of water resources requires intense interactions among leaders in the business, government and non-profit sector as they face enormous challenges when making expensive decisions about infrastructure investments that will need to last late into the twenty-first century.

Leadership Development

These types of problems require the development of a new generation of leaders who have the skill and expertise to guide such decision-making in the face of difficult and uncertain times. They need to be able to think about problems from a long-term, interdisciplinary and complex systems perspective, and recognize the value of interacting with a diverse group of stakeholders.


Among the students who focused their studies on environmental management and policy are alumni that occupy leadership positions in academia (Princeton, University of Mississippi), government (Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Idaho National Laboratory), non-profit organizations (Harpeth River Watershed Association), and the private sector (manufacturers, management consulting firms). Many of these students have been supported by funds made available via research assistantships and fellowships sponsored by agencies such as Bridgestone, Ingram Barge Company, Department of Energy, Department of Transportation and the Office of Naval Research.


Environmental management and policy studies promote and develop alliances among industry, government and academia. The program is funded by corporate sponsors and through outside research grants such as Dell, Patagonia, the U.S. Department of Energy, the Office of Naval Research, and the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA). These funds are used to support curriculum development, student scholarships, faculty research projects, executive seminars, leadership summits, and Center marketing and administration. Research grants for specific projects are provided by foundations, government agencies and corporations.


Vanderbilt Center for Environmental Management (VCEMS) is directed by Dr. Mark Abkowitz  Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering and Professor of Engineering Management.

  • VCEMS provides the guidance and support for the interdisciplinary study of environmental management and policy issues, bringing faculty members and students together from various disciplines for collaborative study and research.
  • The Center continues to build a sense of community within the environmental management and policy area at Vanderbilt so that we can recruit and educate the highest quality students, and attract and retain the highest quality faculty as the program continues to evolve.
  • VCEMS formally became a university center on the Vanderbilt Campus in November 1995.


APPLY NOW Environmental Engineering Ph.D.

Environmental Engineering, Mgmt. & Policy