Masters of Marine Affairs (MMA) Curriculum

A Human Dimensions Focused Curriculum

The Master of Marine Affairs (MMA) curriculum is designed to familiarize students with a diversity of conceptual and methodological approaches and substantive areas in the field of marine and environmental affairs. The field focuses on the connections between marine and terrestrial environmental and the surrounding communities. To encompass such a broad field, the School utilizes a framework called “Human Dimensions of Global Change in the Marine Environment” (HDGCME). The framework also advances the goals of the College of the Environment: “aiding in discovery through partnerships with industry, government, and non-profits to create an environment where natural and social sciences (as well as humanities) can interact through research, education and application.”

Overview of Curricular Requirements

The MMA degree program is a two-year graduate course of studies requiring the completion of 59 quarter credits. SMEA offers two tracks for completing the MMA degree: thesis and non-thesis. All students must complete the thesis track unless given specific permission by the Graduate Program Coordinator for a non-thesis track as outlined below. Both tracks require completion of 59 credits and the core curriculum.

The MMA core curriculum typically includes between 24-30 credits. The curriculum is an evolving process, as such, requirements vary among entering class. The entering class of 2012, for example, has slightly different requirements from the entering class of 2013. Please refer to the appropriate Program of Studies for explicit requirements for your entering class.

Electives and independent study courses round out the requirements for the MMA degree.

The Core Curriculum

The Core is divided into three categories:

  1. The Introductory Sequence which addresses SMEA’s HDGCME theme;
  2. Subject Areas such as marine science, marine law, economics, etc.; and
  3. Analytic Skills including quantitative analysis, policy analysis, etc.

The first year of study is devoted to developing a comprehensive understanding of marine and environmental affairs including how the HDGCME construct applies to the field, as well as to strengthening analytical skills, demonstrated by making substantial progress toward the completion of the core course requirements and electives.  For most students a major first year task is to identify a thesis chair and develop a thesis topic and thesis prospectus by the end of spring quarter.

During the second year of study, students are expected to develop competence in a particular aspect of marine and environmental affairs through additional course work, seminars, and/or the preparation of the required thesis. Non-thesis students perform additional course work in lieu of thesis credits.

In terms of required courses, the Core Curriculum consists of:
  1. Introduction to Marine Affairs (3 credits)
  2. Current Topics in Marine Affairs (1 credit)
  3. Integrated Assessment Methods (3 credits)
  4. Decision Making & Action Taking (3 credits)
  5. Marine Law (3 credits)
  6. Policy Analysis (3 credits)
  7. Economics (3 credits)
  8. Policy Processes (3 credits)
  9. Marine Science (3 credits)
  10. Quantitative Skills (3 credits)
  11. First Year Advising (Thesis) (2 credits)


Elective courses are intended to enhance the student's knowledge of marine and environmental affairs in areas pertinent to the thesis research project or the degree project and the student's special interests.  Electives provide the needed depth of understanding in substantive fields of inquiry and in methods of research and analysis. 

The SMEA faculty have identified the following topical areas of interest:

  • Marine Environmental Protection and Restoration
  • Integrated Coastal Management and Coastal Zone Management                                              
  • Ocean Governance and Regime Development
  • Living Marine Resources Policy and Management
  • Marine Protected Areas and Ecosystem-Based Management
  • Marine Recreation and Leisure
  • Seaports, Marine Transportation and Waterfront Development
  • Global Change and its Human Dimensions
  • Public Education, Outreach and Awareness
  • International Applications and Outreach        

By selecting appropriate courses, students may choose to emphasize one or more of these as a focus of study.  Additional advice on elective course offerings can be sought from faculty advisors, thesis committee chairs, and the Graduate Program Coordinator.

Independent Study Courses

Students may use independent study to explore topics within their area of interestand during preliminary thesis research and preparation of the prospectus.  Typically, independent study courses are in coordination with the student’s Thesis Chair, but also may be agreed upon with another faculty member to gain knowledge not offered in a course at the current time.

Thesis Track

Students in the thesis track are expected to prepare a high quality master’s thesis.  Ideally, the thesis should be suitable for submission to a peer reviewed journal or equivalent publication.  Ten units of the 59 required credits are devoted to thesis research and presentation.

Non-thesis Track

The non-thesis track is intended for students who are mid-career or who would gain academically and/or professionally from a course of study other than the intensive research and writing experience required in a thesis.  Non-thesis track students take an additional 9 credits of coursework and a one-credit capstone seminar.