UMD: A Globally Connected University

UMD-Winter: Indonesia: Social-Ecological Systems, Environmental Policy, and Sustainable Development (PLCY)

Bali, Indonesia
Java, Indonesia
North Sumatra, Indonesia
Terms offered: 
Program Type: 
Credit Type: 
Minimum GPA: 
Non-UMD Students Eligible to Apply: 
Graduate Students Eligible to Apply: 
EA Advisor: 
Maria Barra
Language of Instruction: 


Indonesia PUAF group

Indonesian place names like Bali, Java, and Sumatra resonate with exoticism for Westerners. This historical image has its roots, perhaps, in the country’s great and unique diversity and complexity. The archipelago’s 17,000 islands comprise one of the most diverse countries on the planet – biologically, ethnically, and linguistically. Indonesia is home to at least 600 languages, 300 ethnic groups, one of the three great remaining tropical rainforests, and one of the richest, most biodiverse marine reef systems in the world. Indonesia is a young country, having declared independence from the Netherlands in 1945, but nonetheless is today the world’s largest Muslim nation, third largest democracy in the world, fourth largest country by population, and one of the biggest emerging economies. Indonesia continues to grapple with how to hold its bursting diversity together in a single, modernizing nation in a way that also firmly confronts the problems of climate change, multiculturalism, good governance, geopolitical tensions, poverty, and biodiversity conservation. As such, the country is emblematic not simply of its historically exoticized uniqueness, but of the complex global problems we all face in the 21st century.
This graduate-level international development and environmental policy field course examines the systemic interconnections between Indonesia’s environmental challenges and development strategies with a focus on the interface between local governance systems and global policies, especially in the face of climate change. Understanding that most such challenges involve multiple stakeholders, we study how ground-level problems are mitigated or exacerbated by national and global government policies and where local efforts may better inform policy, paying special attention to indigenous systems and what they can teach us about sustainable development, livelihood security, and climate policy.
Visiting several of the main islands of Indonesia – Bali, Sumatra, and Java – the course focuses on:

  • Indigenous systems of environmental management and understanding such as the complex adaptive subak system of rice terraces, irrigation, and water temples in Bali. 
  • Forest conservation and its place in climate change mitigation and adaptation, including deforestation and the expansion of oil palm plantations, carbon emissions from forest and peatland burning, wildlife habitat conservation, indigenous and local forest management, and REDD+. 
  • Coral reefs and marine protected areas in the famed Coral Triangle, which comprises some of the healthiest remaining reefs on the planet. 
  • Local governance and adaptation measures, the country’s decentralization policy, and democratic development and human rights. 
  • Discussions with leading government officials, top research experts, local farmers and fishermen, and NGO and IGO leaders, with intensive meetings in Jakarta and Bogor. 

Throughout the course, we experience the rich and fascinating nature and culture of Indonesia – the country’s diverse religions and complex communal traditions, stunning music and theater, ancient temples, beautiful landscapes and biodiversity, and wonderful people.

For more information, check out the program blog: 

*There are four need-based $1,000 scholarships available for this program. Please contact Dr. Tom Hilde for additional information once you have completed your program application.

You must be in good academic and judicial standing and you must not have any registration blocks to participate in this program. The minimum GPA for this program is listed above.

UMD and non-UMD juniors, seniors and graduate students are eligible to apply. Students should have a general interest in international development, environmental issues, social policy, anthropology, political theory and ethics, and/or international security policy. Particularly welcome are interests in social-ecological systems, rice agriculture and irrigation societies, marine resource management and coral reefs, indigenous peoples' rights, climate change adaptation, REDD+ and other forest management systems, local-national-international governance, wildlife and habitat conservation, sustainable development and local livelihoods.

If you are interested in this program but do not meet the eligibility requirements, reach out to the program director (listed in the Contacts tab) to discuss your interest in the program.

Bachelors/MPP students wishing to apply should first contact Fan Tsao at the School of Public Policy ( about eligibility for the course and, if eligible, their undergraduate department advisor in order to obtain the necessary signatures or stamps.

After you commit to the program, Education Abroad will enroll you in the following three (3) credit UMD course:

  • PLCY689I Public Policy Topics: Social-Ecological Systems, Environmental Policy, and Sustainable Development in Indonesia

The credit you earn during this program will count as resident credit.

You are required to participate in three pre-departure meetings (six hours total), and one-post trip meeting. There will be extensive pre-program reading assignments.

In Bali and Sumatra we will stay in small, locally-owned and operated hotels. We also spend one night camping in the Sumatran rainforest. This year, we might also stay in an indigenous Dayak longhouse in Kalimantan jungle. In Java, we stay at comfortable, modern hotels in the cities of Bogor and Jakarta. Laundry and internet are available in each location, except the jungle. 

Costs are current for winter 2020.  
*Please note this program qualifies for eligible Pell Grant recipients to apply for the Gilman International Scholarship. Online applications are now open and the deadline is Tuesday, October 1st at 11:59pm Central Daylight Time (CDT). 
**There are four need-based $1,000 scholarships available for this program. Please contact Dr. Tom Hilde for additional information once you have completed your program application.

Application Fee $50
Billable Costs
Billable costs are charged to your student account. They are due based on the Office of Student Financial Services and Cashiering payment schedule. Be sure to check your statements when they are available.
Education Abroad Fee $500
This fee is charged to your account when the application status changes from "Accepted" to "Committed." This fee includes Education Abroad services including registration, billing, advising, risk management, and pre-departure orientation.
International Health Insurance $45
Tuition $2,310
This fee is charged to your UMD account upon course registration. This fee includes: Tuition, in-country transportation, course related activities, group meals, and teaching services.
Housing Fee $375
This fee represents the housing provided during the program.
Out-of-pocket Costs
Meals (estimate) $100
Visa $0
Passport $145
Roundtrip Airfare (estimate) $1,700
Course Materials $30
Optional Activities/incidental expenses $50
Optional trip cancellation/interruption Insurance (estimate) $180

NOTE: If you are a non-UMD graduate student, you will need to pay a $75 application fee to the UMD graduate school to participate in this program.

Please refer to the following resources for more information on funding study abroad

PLEASE NOTE: All University of Maryland study abroad programs are financially self-supporting and, therefore, subject to cancellation due to low enrollment.

Tom Hilde is Research Professor in the School of Public Policy. He teaches courses in Environment & Development, and Environmental Ethics International Environmental Agreements, and Moral Dimensions of Public Policy. He also directs the policy course trip to Peru (the Amazon and Lima) on sustainable development, resource conflict, and human rights. Trained in philosophy, Hilde moved to UMD from New York University, where he directed the Environmental Conservation Education Program and the Applied Philosophy Group, and taught interdisciplinary seminars in environmental politics and ethics, globalization, and international development. He has published the books, The Agrarian Roots of Pragmatism (2000) and On Torture (2008). Hilde was a Fulbright senior scholar in Venezuela in 2005 and Safra Network Fellow at Harvard University during 2014-2015.

For course, itinerary or in-country information, please contact the Program Director. For general questions or assistance with applying, contact EA Short-term Programs.

As a part of this program, you will engage in the following activities:

  • Guest lectures by leading development and environmental experts and officials.
  • Exploration of the natural environment, including activities of jungle trekking and coral reef exploring.
  • Cultural excursions to temples, rice farms, and oil palm plantations.
Term Year Application Deadline Admission Notification Program Start Program End
Winterterm 2020 10/13/2019 10/11/2019 12/29/2019 01/22/2020