Cornell University

M.S. in Human Environment Relations

Two-Year Graduate Program

Program Philosophy

The research tradition within the Human Environment Relations major is based in the social sciences, and particularly on environmental psychology and human factors and ergonomics. Using a systematically-generated knowledge base to guide the search for an evaluation of appropriate design solutions and methods is fundamental to the major. The underlying premise is that systematic, empirical research based in the social sciences--when combined with imagination--can contribute to the planning, design, and management of environments that enhance the individual and organizational effectiveness.

Program Focus

The M.S. program brings together faculty and students with expertise in the fields of interior, industrial, and graphic design, architecture, art, design history, planning, building technology, environmental psychology, human factors and ergonomics, economics, and facility planning and management to work on problems related to the interior environment.

The M.S. in Human Environment Relations major rests on the following basic premises:

  • Development of the knowledge base guiding the planning, design, and management of physical settings requires systematic, empirical research.

  • Individual and organizational behaviors are affected by the form of the environment.

  • The users of environments are diverse and have different needs. Individual characteristics such as gender, stage in life cycle, family structure, role or task affect our environmental needs. In addition, organizational characteristics such as organizational culture, goals, and structure help shape building form and use. 

  • The planning, design, and management of good environments require consideration of all users, from the president, housing manager, hospital administrator, and principal to the clerk, tenant, patient, and student.

  • Understanding organizational and human needs is no less critical than understanding financial, technological and aesthetic factors influencing the planning, design, and management of our physical surroundings.

  • The processes through which environments are planned, designed, and managed are as important as the physical designs themselves.


There are four concentrations within the Human Environment Relations major:

Who should apply?

The M.S. program is intended for students with a wide variety of undergraduate degrees who want to study the relationship between people and their physical surroundings, some aspect of facility planning and management, human factors, or housing and design.

M.S. candidates must also select a minor from fields throughout the University. Students should identify their minor committee members early on in the program to ensure they have time to take the minor’s required courses, typically 1-2 courses total.

M.S. Requirements

See requirements above for each concentration.

Application Requirements

In addition to the online application via the Graduate School website, the following required documents must be submitted online:

  • Statement of Purpose

  • Three letters of recommendation

  • Official transcripts

  • GRE general test (The desired combined score should be greater than or equal to 310—for the new scoring system effective November 2011—or, a combined score of 1200 for the old scoring system.)

  • TOEFL test for International students (DEA overall minimum: 105, plus Graduate School minimums must be met for each section: writing:20; listening: 15; reading 20; speaking: 22)

    NOTE: Online submission is strongly preferred; however, any credentials that cannot be uploaded can be mailed to:

Graduate Field Assistant
Cornell University/Department of Design & Environmental Analysis
1411 Martha Van Rensselaer Hall
Ithaca, NY  14853-4401


Application deadline: January 15.  Applications are accepted for Fall Admission only.
Any questions, please contact the Graduate Field Assistant:

To find out more, visit the Graduate School web site.

Funding Availability:

The field has a limited number of graduate teaching assistantships available each year.  The assistantships are awarded based on consideration of student skills, experience and academic performance, and the kind of assistance needed in different courses.  While the field cannot guarantee any student support, the field tries to support most students for some portion of their academic study.  Preference is given to 2nd-year students.  In addition, some funding is available for students working with faculty members who have funded research programs.  Please refer to the Graduate School Fellowships web page for information about other fellowships and financial assistance.