One of the oldest environmental degree programs in the country turns 50 this year, celebrating a legacy of progress on the world’s most difficult environmental challenges.

As governments, companies and nonprofit organizations sought to adapt and advance sustainability in the late 20th and early 21st centuries, graduates of the environmental science and engineering doctoral program were at the fore of a major global shift. They developed new product ecolabels, transformed cities to keep people safe from climate change–driven extreme weather and developed new technologies to support the shift to clean energy and electric vehicles.

The program was founded in 1973 by Nobel laureate Willard F. Libby, a UCLA chemistry professor whose work in academia and government agencies led him to conclude that experts were too specialized to handle the complexity of environmental problems, which involved dimensions beyond hard sciences that included public policy, health and business management.

“It was one of the very first environmental programs,” said UCLA professor emeritus and former program director Richard Ambrose. “The hallmarks of the program have always been its multidisciplinary approach to training students and a commitment to training professionals as opposed to academics.”

Hosted by the UCLA Institute of the Environment and Sustainability, the environmental science and engineering doctoral degree combines intensive classes in a range of academic fields and practical experience through a residency program: After two years of coursework, students work on real-world problems through residencies with government agencies, businesses and nonprofit organizations as they work on their theses.

Read the full story on the Institute of the Environment and Sustainability website to find out more about the program’s alumni and how its current students are preparing the world for the next 50 years.