Photo: Britta Schroeder


1.   Why would I want to be a student of RAP?

RAP focuses on problem-centered training, delimited not by the boundaries of an academic discipline, but by the demands of solving a problem. RAP combines interdisciplinary science with practical experience, giving their students deep knowledge in their disciplines as well as a combination of technical, professional and personal skills that enables them to be leaders and creative agents for change in their fields. Other benefits include:

  • Research assistanceships and teaching assistanceship opportunities.
  • Opportunities for an international internship experience.
  • Internships in industry and government.
  • Work with similar-minded graduate students from different disciplines on similar research topics.
  • Excellent post-degree career and employment options.
  • A unique collegial experience

2.   What are the criteria for admission to RAP?

The primary criteria for student acceptance into RAP are: Academic excellence; evidence of a deep commitment to, and vision for, the integration of natural and social sciences to address some issue related to RAP.

The essay of your RAP application is the place for you to communicate your interest in issues of social and ecological sustainability , how your past experiences and training have contributed to this interest and your vision for a graduate thesis project that will help you address your long-term professional goals related to sustainability.

You are not expected  to have a well-defined thesis topic before you enter the program, but we are interested in knowing your current vision for your thesis research and long-term professional goals.

Please click here for an application.


3.   Do I need to identify an advisor before I apply?

Yes. Finding an advisor is one of the most important steps in applying to RAP. The best way to find potential advisors is to look at faculty listings in the departments that most closely correspond to your background and academic interests. Also look through the listing of RAP participating faculty.   We recommend writing faculty to inquire about their avaibility to work with you and including a copy of your CV and a statement of interest.     If you still have questions about who might be an appropriate advisor, please contact Todd Brinkman at and describe your background and potential thesis interests. Those applying to the Interdisciplinary PhD program must form their full committee as a part of the application process. If possible, we encourage applicants to visit UAF and meet with faculty and current students to discuss the program and thesis ideas.

4.   What is the Graduate Committee?

The graduate committee serves as the primary oversight body in determining the student’s degree program. The committee makes final decisions about the Graduate Study Plan, ascendancy to candidacy, and approval of the thesis proposal. The committee also serves as a pool of human resources in developing the student’s research project, executing the research plan, and defending the final product. We have found that committee members are especially important in interdisciplinary studies since no one person on the committee typically has all the necessary background to support the student through their degree program. Consequently, interdisciplinary committees require greater participation by the full set of faculty members.  

The selection of the graduate committee should be done in close consultation with the student’s major advisor. All graduate committees of RAP students must include at least one social or one natural science faculty member, with the committee members reflecting the area of research to be addressed by the student. Students need not select their full committee at the beginning of their studies and are encouraged to postpone selection until the research topic is well defined ( except for INDS students who must identify committee members before applying). Complementary composition of faculty on the committee is critical to success. A limited number of non-university people can sit on the committee if their expertise is required to improve the quality of the research.

5.   Does an applicant have to have a degree in their area of interest?     No. It is possible to be acdepted into a degree program without a degree in that discipline, but the student may be required to take background coursework as a part of the study plan.   In most cases, the graduate committee determines what courses are required of a student.

6.   Is a masters degree required to apply to a PhD program?

In some programs a masters degree is not required to be accepted into the PhD program.   However, students are generally discouraged to apply to the PhD program without a strong research experience.   The masters' thesis helps prepare students for the PhD.   It also helps the student to define his or her research interests, which is epecially important since this choice will have important implications to one’s carreer.

7.   What kind of student should apply to RAP?

Students who are highly motivated by their interest in integrating disciplines to understand the changes in ecosystems, society, and governance, and the relationship of those issues to sustainability are encouraged to apply.  

8.   Can I apply to RAP for a Master’s degree?

Yes. Master's students are encouraged to apply to RAP.

A Masters student can enter the RAP at any point in her/his graduate career, but we anticipate that most students will enter in their first year of graduate studies. Their first year in RAP is identical to that of PhD students, involving interdisciplinary course work, seminars, and a research internship in a field outside their parent discipline. In the remaining 1-2 years of the Masters program, students will incorporate interdisciplinary approaches into their research. masters research is expected to be an application of at least two disciplines (ecology, economics/political science, anthropology) to research that addresses issues related to regional sustainability. This research may include the application of interdisciplinary approaches to resolving a management issue.

9.   When was RAP established?  

RAP was first funded by the National Science Foundation in 2001 and accepted its first students in 2002.   It currently has 45 active full time students, and 33 graduates.

10.   What ways can a RAP student receive funding?

  • RAP will award a limited number of Graduate Fellowships to incoming MS and PhD students in RAP. These Fellowships provide a monthly stipend, graduate student health insurance, and tuition vouchers for up to 10 graduate credits per semester.
  • The George Schaller Fellowship in Wildlife Conservation supports a graduate student from a developing country. For details contact RAP.
  • Many UAF faculty members hold research grants that support graduate students working with their projects. Contact individual faculty to explore these options or contact RAP to receive help matching your interest with a faculty person.

11.   What is the commitment on the part of the student joining RAP?

Students joining RAP agree to participate in the core training program and continue to participate in RAP activites, such as the ALL RAP Seminars and annual RAP Retreat, throughout their time as graduate students. Before joining the program students along with their advisors sign a “participation agreement” that outlines their and the program’s expectations.

12.   What does the program provide to the student?

RAP offers a limited number of Graduate Fellowships and office space is provided for first year RAP students. Students are also eligible to particate in the core curriculm, receive internship funding, and participate in other RAP activities.  

13.   What is expected of the student of RAP?

  • Participate in RAP orientation before the beginning of classes 
  • Complete RAP core courses successfully
  • Participate actively and constructively in RAP discussions and seminars throughout the duration of your studies
  • Contribute to the intellectual vitality of the program and its interdisciplinary objectives, remembering that interdisciplinary study requires multiple perspectives and openness to a wide variety of viewpoints
  • Meet the degree requirements of home department or program
  • Produce an interdisciplinary thesis that integrates natural and social sciences to address some aspect of RAP that is relevant to questions of sustainability
  • Participate in the year-end evaluations of the program

14.   What kind of research is appropriate for a RAP thesis?

The thesis should integrate social and natural science to address a question about sustainability. There are many acceptable approaches meeting this objective and students are encouraged to define their research problem around a real-world issue of sustainability that is particularly meaningful to the student.   Students work with their major advisor, committee, and RAP faculty to explore various methods for undertaking their research.   Research may include a range of methods from ethnography, oral histories, and vidoegraphy to quantitative spatial anlaysis and simulation modeling.
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