Environmental Studies

Interdisciplinary Program Chair: Derek Larson

The environmental studies program takes an interdisciplinary approach to the study of the environment, integrating perspectives from the humanities, social sciences, natural sciences, and fine arts, and applies these perspectives to environmental issues ranging from global warming to the ethics of sport hunting to the environmental costs of our lifestyle choices. Because environmental problems and their potential solutions do not stop at disciplinary boundaries, the program teaches students to approach a particular topic not simply as a question of biology, politics, or theology, but rather to combine these (and many more) perspectives to better understand environmental issues in all their complexity. Particularly important to this process is the inclusion of social science and humanities viewpoints, as even the most technical solutions to environmental problems must be implemented by individuals working within cultural, political, and economic contexts. Currently seventeen faculty from over a dozen different academic departments contribute courses to the program; students also have access to professional staff from the Saint John’s Arboretum, Land Management, Environmental Health and Safety, and other appropriate campus offices. The unique ecological resources of our two campuses include nearly 3,000 acres of deciduous forests, coniferous forests, restored oak savanna, tall grass prairie, wetlands, and a diversity of large and small lakes. This setting, which is carefully managed in the tradition of Benedictine stewardship, provides a wealth of opportunities for the hands-on exploration of environmental issues as well as venues for outdoor recreation and reflection.

Students majoring or minoring in environmental studies come from a wide range of backgrounds and areas of interest, but all share an essential curiosity about and concern for the environment. The interdisciplinary nature of the program requires students to hone their skills in reading, writing, critical thinking, quantitative analysis, and argumentation to become well-rounded thinkers adept at developing and expressing reasoned opinions not only about environmental issues, but in all aspects of their intellectual lives. Experiential learning components are incorporated into many courses, including service learning projects, field studies, and a required internship for majors. A variety of co-curricular and volunteer activities offer students interested in environmental education, outdoor recreation, environmental activism, sustainability practices, and other related topics frequent opportunities to directly connect with others who share their environmental interests, often alongside faculty and staff affiliated with the program. Majors and minors in environmental studies pursue a wide range of careers, not only in environmental fields but in many other professions for which a traditional liberal arts education serves as preparation; many also go on to advanced study in related fields such as environmental law, public policy, landscape architecture, and environmental education. Complete information on the environmental studies program is available here.

Assessment

An extensive survey of environmental knowledge and attitudes is administered annually to students taking the program’s entry and capstone courses, providing data by which to assess student academic development at the typical entry and exit points of the program. Majors are also required to maintain individual portfolios of representative work which are reviewed by the Environmental Studies Advisory Committee as part of the ongoing assessment of the program’s learning goals. All majors/minors participate in the ENVR 395: Research Seminar, which produces a written report and other outreach materials that are formally assessed each year by the Advisory Committee and other program faculty as appropriate.

Major (53 credits)

Required major courses (41 credits):
Environmental Studies: ENVR 150, 395, 397 (1 cr.)
Science: MATH 124 or PSYC 221, ENVR 175, 275, BIOL 334
Social Science: ECON 111, 318
Humanities: HIST 360, PHIL 243
Major electives (12 credits):

Three courses total, drawn from at least two of the following groups; only one course below the 300 level may count toward this requirement.

  • Environmental Studies: ENVR 200, 300 (with approval of program director)
  • Science: BIOL 331, 332, 336, 337, 338, GEOL 211, 213, 350
  • Social Science: PCST 215, 354, POLS 323, 334, 353, SOCI 338
  • Humanities: COMM 381, THEO 343

Minor (24 Credits)

Required minor courses (16 credits):
ENVR 150, 175, 275, 395

Note: Students majoring in the natural sciences are exempted from ENVR 175 and instead must complete ENVR 275 and one additional approved natural science course from the following list: BIOL 109, 331, 334, 336, 337, CHEM 105, COLG 113/PCST 215, GEOL 211, 212, 213, PHYS 103, 105, 107; other courses (such as those taken overseas) may be approved for this requirement through consultation with the program director.

Minor electives (8 credits):
The two elective courses in the social sciences/humanities must be taken outside the student’s major field of study and must include at least one course at the 300 level. The list of approved courses will be expanded as new courses are proposed and approved the environmental studies program director. The currently approved courses are COMM 381, ECON 318, ENVR 200/300, HIST 360, PCST 215, PCST 354, PHIL 243, SOCI 338, THEO 343.

Supporting courses (various departments; see descriptions elsewhere in catalog)
Required courses
BIOL 334 General Ecology (prerequisite: BIOL 121 and 221, or ENVR 275) (NS)
ECON 111 Intro to Economics (SSL)
ECON 318 Natural Resource and Environmental Economics (prerequisite: ECON 111)
ENVR 275 Integrated Environmental Science II (NS)
ENVR 175 Integrated Environmental Science I (NS)
HIST 360 US Environmental History (HMU)
MATH 124 Probability and Statistical Inference (MT)
        OR PSYC 221 Applied Behavioral Statistics (4) (prerequisite: 111)
PHIL 243 Environmental Ethics (HML)

Electives
BIOL 332 Natural History of Terrestrial Vertebrates
BIOL 336 Behavioral Ecology
BIOL 337 Aquatic Ecology
BIOL 338 Plant-Animal Interactions
BIOL 331 Biology of the Pacific Northwest
COMM 309 Environmental Rhetoric (HMU)
GEOL 350 Petrology
GEOL 211 Physical Geology (NS)
GEOL 213 Environmental Geology (NS)
PCST 354 Global Environmental Politics (SSU)
PCST 215 Science, Environment, & Society (NS)
POLS 353 International Law
POLS 323 Constitutional Law Structure and Power (SSU)
POLS 334 Regulatory Law
SOCI 338 World Population (SSU)
THEO 343 Theology and the Environment (HMU)

Courses (ENVR)

150 Introduction to Environmental Studies. (4)
Interdisciplinary introduction to environmental studies. Case-based investigation of environmental issues combining perspectives from the social sciences, natural sciences, and humanities. Topics will vary but may include such subjects as endangered species, air/water pollution, environmental justice/racism, animal rights, global warming, ecotourism, agriculture, nature writing, campus ecology, and others. Fall.

175 Integrated Environmental Science I. (4)
An interdisciplinary introduction to the science underlying environmental issues. This course will focus on the principles of chemistry and geology and in their application to environmental problems. Laboratory experiences will involve exercises and experiments that engage students in the process of science, including design of experiments, analysis and presentation of quantitative data, and written and oral communication. Prerequisite: math proficiency. Spring.

200 Topics in Environmental Studies. (4)
In-depth study of an environmental issue, perspective, or methodology at the lower-division level. Course may be repeated for credit when topics vary and with consent of the program director.

215 Environmental Studies Learning Community. (2)
Colloquium focusing on current environmental issues, intended for students new to the major or minor. Must be taken concurrently with two other courses approved for the major. Includes service learning and field study components. Fall.

275 Integrated Environmental Science II. (4)
An interdisciplinary introduction to the science underlying environmental issues. This course will focus on the principles of biology and their integration with chemical and geological principles from ENVR 175 to analyze environmental problems. Laboratory experiences will involve exercises, experiments, and outdoor field study that engage students in the process of science, including design of experiments, analysis and presentation of quantitative data, and written and oral communication. Prerequisite: math proficiency and ENVR 175 (or CHEM 123 or GEOL 211 or GEOL 213). Fall.
 
271 Individual Learning Project. (1-4)
Supervised reading or research at the lower-division level. Permission of program director required. Consult department for applicability towards major requirements. Not available to first-year students.

300 Topics in Environmental Studies. (4)
In-depth study of an environmental issue, perspective, or methodology a the upper-division level. Course may be repeated for credit when topics vary and with consent of the program director.

371 Individual Learning Project. (1-4)
Supervised reading or research at the upper-division level. Permission of program director required. Consult department for applicability towards major requirements. Not available to first-year students.

395 Research Seminar. (4)
Capstone seminar for majors/minors; intensive research project and formal presentation in collaborative setting. Prerequisite: senior standing or permission of instructor. Spring.

397 Internship in Environmental Studies. (1-8)
Supervised career exploration which promotes the integration of theory with practice. An opportunity to apply skills under direct supervision in an approved setting. Prerequisites: approval of the department chair and a faculty moderator; completion of the pre-internship seminar.

398 Honors Senior Essay, Research or Creative Project. (4)
Required for graduation with “Distinction in Environmental Studies.” Prerequisite: HONR 396 and approval of the program chair and director of the Honors Thesis program. For further information see HONR 398.