Environmental Studies Major

Students pursuing an ES major complete all of the Core courses plus six to eight courses comprising a disciplinary Focus. Students are encouraged to complete some courses in the Core before beginning coursework toward the Focus. Students should consult an ES advisor for assistance with planning a course of study. Certain double majors are not permitted with ES. Given the deeply interdisciplinary nature of the ES Core and the in-depth study involved in the Focus area, students completing the ES major, an additional three credits in the Fine Arts, and two additional courses in the Social Sciences have fulfilled three PEAKs: Humanities & Fine Arts; Social Sciences & History; and Natural Sciences & Mathematics.

The Environmental Studies Core (36 Credits)

The Environmental Studies Core introduces essential concepts in environmental studies, foundational approaches to the study of the environment, and the specific ways in which environmental studies are practiced in various disciplines. Courses in the Core should be taken as early as possible.

The Focus (18-24 units)

While the Core Courses in the major ensure that students acquire a substantive, interdisciplinary understanding of Environmental Studies, the Focus ensures that students also have training in a traditional discipline. In the Focus, students apply the knowledge gained in the interdisciplinary Core to specific fields. All foci include in-depth study within a single field or discipline and contain at least 10 upper-division units. In addition to the following foci, students may design a Focus in consultation with an ES advisor. Self-designed foci must be approved by the ES Program Committee. The ES Foci are not PEAK minors and may be completed only as part of the ES major.

Chemistry Focus

All human activity depends upon energy, chemical systems, and the earth's elemental cycles, and our dependence upon these systems has had profound affects on our environment. The water, carbon, and nitrogen cycles, for example, reflect the impact of human activity. Addressing environmental problems from a chemical perspective necessitates generating data about the properties of chemical systems, interpreting those data, and understanding the study of matter. In the Chemistry Focus, students study techniques for chemical analysis, the complexities of matter, the earth's elemental cycles, and electrochemistry, and gain experience conducting chemical analyses and interpreting scientific data. The Chemistry Focus provides students with a solid base of coursework that enables exploration of crucial concerns affecting the physical environment.

Labs associated with the following courses are also required. Students completing the Chemistry Focus may substitute for CHE-302 Organic Chemistry II either CHE-412 Biochemistry & Laboratory; or CHE-420 Inorganic Chemistry & Laboratory.

Requirements include:

Conservation Biology Focus

Understanding the biology of organisms, populations, and ecosystems is essential to addressing environmental issues. The ability to collect and interpret biological data reliably and to gather and interpret relevant scientific literature allows for the critical evaluation of ecological issues and contributes to sound environmental decision making. In the Conservation Biology Focus, students gain both a conceptual framework and the laboratory and field experience needed to understand the biological aspects of environmental issues.

Labs associated with the following courses are also required. To ensure that students have adequate quantitative preparation, they should complete MAT-212 Advanced Statistical Methods.

Requirements include:

Literature Focus

Our values, beliefs, and language relate deeply to environmental issues and attitudes. Similarly, the human imagination and the stories that we tell ourselves reflect and affect the physical environment. Studying the literary tradition allows us to reflect on historical assumptions and understandings about how humans relate to their world. In the Literature Focus, students examine the British, American, and World literary traditions, and study theories concerning how literature makes meaning for readers.
Requirements include:

Philosophy Focus

With the increasing power of modern science and technology to affect nature, reflections upon the place of humanity in the universe have taken on special urgency. These reflections include questions about the limits of scientific knowledge, the ethical obligations of humans to non-human life and the environment, and technology's impact on humanity's self-understanding. The philosophy emphasis enables a student to examine these and other issues thoughtfully by introducing the most important ideas in Western philosophy and developing students' abilities in critical analysis, argumentation, and presentation.

Requirements include:

Political Economy Focus

The study of the environment requires an understanding of natural systems and of values, beliefs and language. The application of this knowledge can lead to important social and environmental change. The focus in Politics and Economics, which emphasizes public policy, allows Environmental Studies majors to apply their knowledge to affect substantive change to their communities, regions, and society. A thorough comprehension of political and economic systems, philosophies, and methods is critical for students to become influential members of society.

Requirements include:

Self-designed Focus

In addition to the Foci listed above, students may design a Focus in consultation with an ES advisor. All self-designed Foci must include in-depth study within a single field or discipline and at least 10 upper-division units, and must be approved by the ES Program Committee by the end of the junior year. If you are interested in designing a Focus, see your ES advisor or the Chair of the ES Program.

Student Learning Outcomes:

Upon completion of the Environmental Studies major, students should be able to:

  • Question their own cultural and environmental attitudes and examine these values in their lives and work.
  • Think critically and interdisciplinarily about environmental issues.
  • Gather and analyze data to answer environmental questions.
  • Communicate effectively (oral and written format) about the environment.
  • Actively engage in their communities to foster environmental stewardship.