Office of Surface Mining VISTA Master's Programs

Enhance Your MS Degree with AmeriCorps Service

The OSM/VISTA Master of Science degree programs are offered through Michigan Tech’s partnership with the program operated jointly by the United States Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement (OSM) and the AmeriCorps Volunteer in Service To America (VISTA) program. This unique program blends AmeriCorps service with a master’s degree program and emphasizes practical field experience and research.

The OSM/VISTA program is available in conjunction with two degrees in the Department of Social Sciences:

Help to Revitalize Underserved Communities

OSM/VISTA places volunteers in hundreds of organizations dedicated to renewing the cultures, economies, and environments of historic mining communities. These diverse organizations encounter common challenges stemming from the cultural and environmental legacies of communities that developed their industrial wealth through mining operations. Active OSM/VISTA coalitions include the Western Hardrock Mining Watershed Team and the Appalachian Coal County Team.

VISTA volunteers partner with local groups to help communities build the capacity to manage economic redevelopment, cultivate environmental stewardship, and explore models of community revitalization. Since the Department of Social Sciences has expertise in working with industrial heritage and developing environmental and energy policies, we can effectively prepare students to become volunteers and aid them in transforming their experience into professional careers.

Career Pathways and Professional Preparation

Following one year of VISTA service, students return to campus to fulfill the requirements of their chosen master’s degree. OSM/VISTA students study alongside our other MS students, pursuing a professional degree with diverse career pathways:

Environmental and Energy Policy

  • Policy-related positions (manufacturing and engineering firms)
  • Environmental managers (federal, state, and local governmental units)
  • Policy and environmental specialists (nonprofit organizations)
  • Community organizing and leadership roles (environmental organizations)

Industrial Archaeology

  • Work with historic sites and museums
  • Heritage and cultural resources management
  • Field archaeology
  • Public history
  • Historic preservation and planning
  • Education
  • Community and government service

Additionally, some graduates will elect to continue their studies in a PhD program.

Our graduates go on to become competent professionals and engaged doctoral students because the curriculum creates the opportunity to develop practical, hands-on tool kits within a solid theoretical grounding, in addition to the powerful OSM/VISTA experience. Thesis projects are often developed in conjunction with OSM/VISTA affiliates, and therefore incorporate real-world situations.

Curriculum Requirements

OSM/VISTA students take exactly the same courses/credits as required by the regular MS degree programs, except for the addition of 4 VISTA credits (at minimum). Many electives offered at the graduate level in social sciences are very well suited to this degree.

As with our regular master’s degree programs, students may petition their committee to waive specific courses, such as the field methods course, if they possess a strong background in that area. The student can then substitute appropriate elective credits in place of the waived required course. Students may count a maximum of 12 credits from 3000–4000-level courses toward their degree requirements, meaning that at least 22 credits must come from 5000–6000-level courses.

MS in Environmental and Energy Policy

This degree plan requires a minimum of 38 credit hours. Beyond the 12 credits from core courses and the minimum of 4 VISTA credits (SS5015), students choosing the thesis option will take at least one approved elective course and at least 8 research credits, and students choosing the project option will take at least two approved elective courses and at least 5 research credits.

This is not an official list of degree requirements
Adjustments may be required due to curriculum changes.

Sample Curriculum Plan
Year One
SummerAcademic Year
 12 credits of core courses and 6 credits of electives and/or methods
Year Two
SummerAcademic Year
4 credits of VISTA (SS5015)4–8 credits of VISTA (SS5015)
Year Three
SummerAcademic Year
1–3 credits of graduate research3 credits of electives (as needed)
 2–8 credits of graduate research

Note: Comprehensive information on curriculum requirements is available on the MS in Environmental and Energy Policy degree page.

MS in Industrial Archaeology

This degree plan requires a minimum of 38 credit hours. Beyond the 23 credits from core courses and the minimum of 4 VISTA credits (SS5015), students choosing the thesis option will take at least one approved elective course and at least 8 research credits, and students choosing the project option will take at least two approved elective courses and at least 5 research credits.

This is not an official list of degree requirements
Adjustments may be required due to curriculum changes.

Sample Curriculum Plan
Year One
SummerAcademic Year
3 credits Archaeology Field School15 credits of core seminars and proseminars
 3 credits of elective
Year Two
SummerAcademic Year
4 credits of VISTA (SS5015), or 3 credits of field school if needed4–8 credits of VISTA (SS5015)
Year Three
SummerAcademic Year
VISTA or field school as needed, or start graduate research6 credits of core seminars and proseminars
 3 credits of elective as needed
 9 credits of graduate research (more or less as needed)

Note: See the MS in Industrial Archaeology Program Guidelines for comprehensive information on curriculum requirements.