May 17, 2024  
2017-2018 Undergraduate Catalog 
2017-2018 Undergraduate Catalog [ARCHIVED CATALOG]

Environmental Studies and Sustainability, Social Sustainability Track, Major, B.A.

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The Environmental Studies and Sustainability (ESS) program is an interdisciplinary program that recognizes that the need to understand, respond to, and redirect the impacts of human activity on the natural systems of the planet is immediate and unprecedented. Current and future generations of students will be faced with the challenge to re-think, re-design and re-create how humans make use of all natural resource based systems on earth. The driving force behind the ESS Degree Program is to educate our students to meet these challenges and prepare them to succeed in the emerging green economy through experiential learning, which involves connecting coursework to the larger world.

The ESS major focuses upon how scientific, cultural, economic, and political ideas shape our behavior toward the natural environment, and how the natural environment in turn affects society. The curriculum is truly interdisciplinary, weaving together courses in environmental science and policy, the social sciences and the humanities, business and engineering. In this way, students explore human connections to the natural world, ethics and values, how natural systems function, technological and economic relationships to sustainability, how to motivate environmentally sustainable behavior, and effective pedagogical strategies for integrating sustainability.

The ESS curriculum is designed to emphasize experiential learning, with many of the courses cultivating particular skills students will find helpful in developing solutions to environmental problems. Students will develop competencies in a variety of approaches to sustainability while also building a focus in a more specialized domain. Internships and the Senior Project encourage students to utilize these competencies in the community. There are also opportunities for independent research, service, and international study.

The curriculum is designed to be rigorous yet flexible, requiring a set of core courses but allowing students to pursue their own interests within the broader world of environmental studies.

All ESS majors are strongly encouraged to pursue either a second major or a minor within a field related to the major, for example, Biology, Business, Chemistry, Economics, Education, Civil Engineering, Social Justice, etc.

Major Requirements

This bachelor’s degree program requires a minimum of 124 credits. As part of the overall 124 credit minimum, satisfying the requirements for the Environmental Studies and Sustainability major includes completing a minimum of 44 credits in the major.

Tracking in the ESS Major

(16 credits)

Beyond the required core, students can also pursue three different tracks in the ESS major: Environmental Science, Business and Policy, and Social Sustainability.

Social Sustainability Track

Students taking this track will be exposed to the ethical, historical, and political dimensions of the interaction between nature and society not only to understand how environmental problems often arise from power relations and unequal control over natural resources, but also to appreciate why we have a duty to address these problems and to identify strategies for responsible action that can lead to social change. Because solutions to these problems will require innovative thinking, courses in this area also call upon students to develop their environmental imaginations, that is, the ability to envision an ecologically healthier world than the one we currently inhabit. Eligible courses include:


Open Electives (8 credits)

To give students greater flexibility in their thinking, eight credits of the major are open to the student to use either to deepen their understanding of a particular dimension of sustainability or to broaden their thinking.


In addition to the core courses, students must take at least 4 credits in the humanities, sciences, and social sciences or professional programs. These courses are marked with an H, S, SS, or P respectively above.

Major GPA. Students must achieve a final graduation point average of 2.50 or better within the major.

Advising In conjunction with their advisor, students Student advising in the ESS Program will require close coordination and oversight, especially given the interdisciplinary curriculum. All advising will be coordinated and/or conducted by the Program Director.

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