In the Environmental Studies Program (ENVS) we seek to motivate and prepare students to rise to the challenges and opportunities associated with human-environment interactions. Environmental degradation is an escalating problem from local to global scales. Training students to understand and address these environmental problems is our core mission and is why we believe that environmental studies is an essential component of a modern liberal arts education.
The field of Environmental Studies views the earth, and our place in it, as a set of complex, interacting socio-ecological systems. To understand this complexity, ENVS draws on concepts and methods from the natural sciences, social sciences and humanities, as complementary lenses through which to view these systems. But we also seek to overcome the limitations of any one of these perspectives by applying innovative approaches that integrate the traditional disciplines in new and productive ways. Research and teaching strengths in the program include environmental governance, ecosystem science, environmental and ecological economics, biodiversity conservation, climate change, and sustainable food systems.
A defining element of environmental studies is active engagement with real-world environmental problems. One contemporary concept we employ to frame this practical engagement is sustainability. The quest for sustainability asks the difficult question, how can humans live well on the planet without compromising the ability of current and future generations to do the same? A number of our courses have a specific focus on “hands-on” engagement with sustainability (ENVS 3: Environment and Society: Towards Sustainability, ENVS 50: Environmental Problem Analysis and the Africa Foreign Study Program).
To meet the needs of our students, we offer a major in Environmental Studies and three minors: Environmental Studies, Environmental Science, and Sustainability. We also offer the Africa Foreign Study Program that travels to South Africa, Lesotho and Namibia where we explore the themes of environmental studies within the particular environment, culture and history of the southern Africa region.
Ruth Heindel GR and Professor Ross Virginia in Antarctica for research on the NSF McMurdo Dry Valley LTER Grant. Photo courtesy of Ross Virginia.
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Last Updated: 1/29/14