UMD: A Globally Connected University

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

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



Learn more about this program at an upcoming information session:
  • Friday, September 8, 12-1:30 in TMH 0102 (Schelling Classroom)
The names of Indonesian islands  - Bali, Java, Sumatra - often resonate with exoticism for Westerners. This historical image has its roots perhaps in part 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 – ecologically, culturally, and linguistically. Indonesia is home to at least 600 languages, 300 ethnic groups, one of the three great remaining tropical rainforests in the world, 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, economic needs, 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 sustainable development and environmental/climate policy field course examines the systemic interconnections between Indonesia’s environmental challenges and development strategies with a focus on the interface between local adaptive governance systems and practices, national priorities, and global commitments, 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 policies and where local efforts may better inform policy, paying special attention to indigenous systems and what they can teach us about sustainability, livelihood security, and climate policy. 
  • Visiting several of the main islands of Indonesia – Bali, Sumatra, Kalimantan (Borneo), and Java – the course focuses on: 
  • Indigenous systems of environmental management and knowledge 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 efforts such as REDD+.
  • Coral reefs and marine protected areas in the famed Coral Triangle, which comprises some of the healthiest and most diverse reefs on the planet.
  • Visions and plans for a sustainable, green future in this geographically and culturally diverse country, particularly regarding energy policy and continuing economic growth; including the massive project of constructing an entirely new capital city.
  • 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 lea77ders, with intensive meetings particularly 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 community traditions, stunning music and theater, ancient temples, beautiful landscapes and biodiversity, and wonderful people.

Course Director, Professor Tom Hilde, is Co-Director of the Indonesia Program in the School of Public Policy’s Center for Global Sustainability. Professor Hilde has taught the course for over 10 years and brings over two decades of interest in and research on the region. 

Associate Director Matt Regan is a historian in Southeast Asian history who has co-led the course for the past 10 years. Together, Hilde and Regan have written on the role of the Balinese subak in the island’s sustainable development.

Assistant Director Grace Pettey is a graduate student and Robertson Fellow in the School of Public Policy. She worked in Rwanda for four years as a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant and later at African Leadership University before coming to UMD. 

For more information, check out the program blog:

*Note that tuition remission applies for students with graduate assistantships. 

*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 graduate students, seniors, and juniors are eligible to apply. All majors are welcome. Applicants preferably have a general interest in international development, environmental issues and climate change, 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 mitigation and adaptation, land-use change, forest management systems, local-national-international governance, renewable energy development, 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 Eva Morgan 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.

If any PLCY graduate student wishes to talk to someone about how this course fits into their degree plan, they should reach out to Ms. Hermione Pickett at 

In Bali, we stay in small locally owned and operated hotels. In Sumatra and/or Kalimantan, accommodations may be quite basic. A jungle trek may involve camping in the rainforest. In Java, we stay at comfortable, modern hotels in the cities of Bogor and Jakarta. Laundry and internet are available in urban locations.

Costs listed are for winterterm 2024. 

*This program qualifies for eligible Pell Grant recipients to apply for the Gilman International Scholarship. Online applications will open in mid-August and are due Thursday, October 5, 2023, at 11:59pm PT.

**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 $25
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.
Tuition $2,613
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.
Activities $150
Housing Fee $800
This fee represents the housing provided during the program.
Education Abroad Fee $700
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 $55
Out-of-pocket Costs
Meals (estimate) $100
Visa $0
Passport $165
Expedited Passport Processing (recommended) $60
Roundtrip Airfare (estimate) $1,800
Course Materials $0
Incidental expenses $150
Trip cancellation Insurance (optional)  $200

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 abroad45

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 Education Abroad.

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

  • Discussions with leading development and environmental experts and officials.
  • Exploration of the natural environment, possibly including jungle treks and snorkeling or scuba diving.
  • Excursions to temples, rice fields, and other sites.
Term Year Application Deadline Admission Notification Program Start Program End
Winterterm 2024 10/01/2023 10/11/2023 12/31/2023 01/21/2024