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Guide for Prospective ENVS Students

What is the goal of the Environmental Studies program (ENVS)? 

The Environmental Studies Program at Holy Cross provides a multidisciplinary major and minor. The aim of Environmental Studies is to allow students to assemble a series of courses that bridges three or more disciplines and that provides a comprehensive understanding of environmental issues. Students are expected to study the causes, mechanisms and effects of environmental problems by investigating the relevant natural processes and the interplay between the environment and social, political and economic institutions.

Who can I talk to about the program?

The current director of the ENVS program is Prof. Sara Mitchell. You are welcome to contact her at smitchel at holycross.edu or stop by her ENVS office hours (this semester's office hours are posted outside her office, Swords 234). We suggest looking at the information available on our website first and seeing if your question is answered there.

Can I major in ENVS? 

Yes. As a major, you will take 14 courses for the program. To learn more about the major, click here.

What if I don't want to be an ENVS major, can I minor in ENVS?

Yes. As a minor, you will take 7 courses for the program, two of which can overlap with your major. To learn more about the minor, click here.

Can anyone join the program?

Students from any major can (and do) minor in ENVS. Generally, the ENVS program recommends that all students applying for a major or minor have at least a 3.00 GPA. Students who do poorly in more than one of the required introductory courses (BIOL 117, BIOL 163, CHEM 181, GEOS 150, ECON 199) should probably consider other majors.

Is there an Environmental Science major or minor?

No. If you are interested in a career or graduate school in an environmental science field, we encourage you to consider majoring in a science discipline (Biology, Chemistry, or Physics) and minoring in ENVS. The Environmental Studies major is for students who are interested in a truly multidisciplinary program with significant coursework in the social sciences and humanities.

When I look up ENVS courses for next semester in STAR, I only see a few listed. Am I missing something? 

As a multidisciplinary program, the ENVS program counts courses from over ten departments, and only a few ENVS courses carry the "ENVS" prefix in the catalog or on STAR. You can find all the courses that count toward ENVS in the Search for Classes window on STAR by selecting "Multidisciplinary Major/Minor" in the Course Attribute dropdown menu, then selecting "Environmental Studies" from the Course Attribute Value dropdown menu. Note that some courses only count toward the major and some only count toward the minor. Please contact the Director if you have questions about specific classes.

I'd like to minor in ENVS but don't plan to be a bio major. Can I take the upper level biology classes, like Marine Biology or Conservation Biology?

Yes, but assume that all course prerequisites apply. The decision about letting ENVS students in without prerequisites is solely up to the course instructor. If you are interested in these upper level Bio classes, you will probably need to take Bio 163 and possibly other biology classes first, but talk to the professor about it before your enrollment period.

I started out as a bio major and took Bio 161 and/or Bio 162. Do I still need to take Bio 163 for the ENVS major?

Yes. Bio 163 is the introduction to biological diversity and ecology, and is the prerequisite for most of the upper level environmental biology courses.

Can ENVS majors or minors study abroad? 

Yes! We are very proud of the fact that many of our students are able to study abroad. Most take advantage of the College's semester-long School for Field Studies programs in Turks and Caicos, Kenya and Tanzania, Australia, and Costa Rica, and other programs, such as the Sea Semester. For more information, visit Study Abroad and other programs.

How should I begin the process? 

Students who are new to ENVS should first explore the website, speak with their advisor, and think critically about the program. Students who have explored the website and feel they would like to become a part of the ENVS program should consult with the program director, to start the application process

What classes should I take first? 

It depends on what your interests are. Generally, a good place to start is BIOL 117 Environmental Science. For ENVS majors, we recommend that students take most of the required introductory courses (requirements 1-5) early, preferably before the end of sophomore year; note that only first- and second-year students can enroll in BIOL 117 and ECON 199. Minors should also try to take BIOL 117 Environmental Science before the end of sophomore year.

Can I fulfill common area requirements with ENVS courses?

Certainly! Many ENVS courses carry common area designations, and there is no limit to the number of common area requirements that can be fulfilled through the ENVS major or minor.

How do my AP credits count?

ENVS majors who score a 5 on the AP Environmental Science exam can skip BIOL 117 and take an additional elective instead (still taking 14 courses for the major). Majors who score a 4 or 5 on the AP Chemistry exam can opt to take CHEM 231 (Equilbrium and Reactivity) instead of CHEM 181 after consultation with the ENVS director and the chair of Chemistry; majors still need to complete a college-level chemistry course. If you have questions about other AP credits, please speak with the director. AP credits cannot be applied toward the minor. We encourage you to contact the ENVS director with any questions about your AP credits and to discuss advanced placement in chemistry.

I took an environmentally themed Montserrat class, does that count towards the major or minor?

Maybe. Certain Montserrat courses can be applied toward the ENVS major and/or minor. The list of approved Montserrat courses and what requirements they fulfill change every year, so you should check with the director if you have a question about a specific one. In all cases, approved year-long Montserrat courses can only fulfill ONE course toward the major or minor.

Can I get a job with an Environmental Studies major or minor?

Of course! Check out our Alumni Stories page!.