Overlooking the Monterey Bay

Spend the winter and spring semesters at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies (MIIS) learning from experts addressing the climate crisis. The California Coast, on the forefront of US environmental policy, is used as a case study to think globally about climate change, coastal resilience, and environmental justice. Undergraduate students can access the extraordinary resources at MIIS, which features a Master of Arts in Environmental Policy and Management and the Center for the Blue Economy.

Academic Structure


With the California Coast and Climate Semester at MIIS, students enroll in three core courses over the winter and spring terms. Remaining credits will usually be made up of two courses within the Environmental Policy and Management (EPM) Department. Students may replace one of these courses with one of the following:

  • an elective course outside the EPM Department focused on language or a related field such as global security, development, or trade;
  • a directed study project with MIIS faculty;
  • a service-learning course or workshop focused on social justice; or
  • a course taught at California State University Monterey Bay (in consultation with the program director).

The combined winter and spring terms will grant students up to 18 MIIS credits.

Core Courses

Winter Term: Monterey Stories, Cultures, and Environments

Students explore the complex dynamics of environmental history, cultural history, and marine conservation on the Monterey Peninsula and environs. The major focus of study will be the relationships between climate, biophysical environment, and human civilization at key stages of the region’s modern development. We will read and discuss a variety of works by historians, novelists, poets, and scientists on the complex historical dynamics of different regional groups, from the indigenous inhabitants of the region to various settler groups. We will go on numerous field trips to places such as the Elkhorn Slough, Monterey Bay Aquarium, Point Lobos, and Asilomar Beach.

Spring Term: Living in the Age of the Anthropocene

What does it mean to be living at a time when human activities have impacted the environment enough to constitute a distinct geological change? This course will examine the intersection of environmental science, policy, and resiliency. A key facet of this course will be rooted in the tenet that we are not apart from nature; we are a part of nature. Many of the problems that we currently face in terms of sustainability and the environment lie at the juncture of nature and culture and are driven by separation and division. Throughout the semester, we will seek to bridge this disconnection with an emphasis on interconnectedness through place-based experiential learning, as well as resiliency efforts on both the global and local level.

Spring Term: Marine Environmental History

Thoughtful, just, and effective conservation and management of coastal and open ocean marine environments require an understanding of the history of marine populations. We need a baseline and a collective understanding of what we mean when we talk about a healthy marine ecosystem or discuss stewardship or “saving” a marine space. As we examine historical fishing methods and how policies and technologies have influenced depletion or abundance, we will discuss which human communities have recorded marine environmental history and how we might ensure that both Indigenous knowledge and the environmental expertise and long experience from marginalized communities have genuine voices in forward-thinking management.

Sample EPM Electives

  • Governing the Global Commons
  • Applied Conservation Science
  • International Marine Science & Policy

Sample Policy and Service-Learning Electives

  • Power, Social Change & Organizations
  • Introduction to Trade Policy & Institutions
  • Global Politics
  • Taking Measure of the Unmeasurable
  • Spanish in the Community
  • Service-learning: International and Domestic Partners

Note: Use the course schedule to find details about each course. This is not a comprehensive list and may change from semester to semester.


The California Coast and Climate Semester runs early January to mid-May. Click here for the 2024-2025 MIIS calendar and check out the following pages for more information about Dates and Fees, Admissions, and Housing.

Study Away + Study Abroad 

Many SAAM students have successfully combined Study Away with a Study Abroad program, spending one semester in Monterey and one semester abroad. It is important to keep academic calendars and visa requirements in mind. Middlebury students should click here to schedule a meeting with an advisor to discuss options. Students from other institutions should speak with their study abroad advisor to determine if they could participate in both Study Away and Study Abroad.

Get a head start on your master’s degree and a scholarship too!

Head Start 

Apply your Study Away at Monterey semester toward a master’s degree in the Environmental Policy and Management Department at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies (MIIS). Reach out to Ms. Toni Thomas, Associate Dean, about how these courses would apply toward your degree (tmthomas@middlebury.edu).


MIIS guarantees $10,000 scholarships for alumni of any Middlebury degree program and their extended family members. Past participants in nondegree Middlebury programs such as Study Away, Study Abroad and the Language Schools are eligible for a $5,000 scholarship.