Environmental Studies Major

The Environmental Studies (ENVS) major is a challenging multidisciplinary program of study that involves 14 courses from at least five departments. Each student tailors the major to her/his own interests and strengths within curricular guidelines. 

Many of these courses are not offered every year, so careful planning is a must. We recommend that potential Environmental Studies majors complete most of the required 100-level courses by the end of their second year. Environmental Studies majors are required to successfully complete all prerequisite courses, particularly Bio 163 and Econ 110 (Delete: 199), to be admitted into upper-level courses. Once a major, students will be given preferential placement in some Environmental Studies courses.

After reviewing the course requirements, students should also review the information in the Guide for Prospective Students page. 

Students seeking to major in Environmental Studies are required to meet with the Director of Environmental Studies to devise an initial plan of study. Please see the Procedures for Enrolling in Environmental Studies page for more details.

Note: Students in the Class of 2020, 2021, 2022 may choose to follow the old requirements or the new requirements adopted in Spring 2019.  Students in the Class of 2023 will follow the new requirements.

New Major requirements

(14 courses, beginning with class of 2023)

1. BIOL 117 Environmental Science

2. ENVS 118 Environmental Perspectives

3. ENVS 401 Capstone Seminar 

4. And 5. Two of these introductory science courses (BIOL 163, CHEM 141 (with lab) or CHEM 181, GEOS 150, PHYS 115)

6. And 7. Two environmental humanities courses, one of which must be 200-level or higher

8. One environmental economics course (ECON 224, etc.)

9. One additional environmental social science course

10. And 11. Two additional environmental science courses, one of which must include a lab

12. A quantitative or spatial analysis course (GIS or Statistics or MATH 303 Mathematical Modeling)

13. And 14. Two more upper level environmental electives in any area.  One of the upper level course requirements can be fulfilled by undergraduate research (e.g., BIOL  401 or college honors thesis) for academic credit with prior permission of the ENVS Director.

Old Major Requirements

Old Major requirements (14 courses) 

1.   BIOL 117 Environmental Science

2.   BIOL 163 Intro to Bio. Diversity and Ecology

3.   CHEM 181 Atoms and Molecules

4.   GEOS 150 Intro to Geology

5.   ECON 110 Principles of Economics

6.   ECON 224 Environmental Economics

7.   One environmental policy course

8.   One environmental humanities course

9.   One upper level environmental science with lab course

10. One upper level environmental science course lab optional

11. One more course in the environmental social sciences or humanities

12. One quantitative or spatial analysis course (MATH 303 Mathematical Modeling)

13. And 14. Two more upper-level environmental courses in any area

Advanced Placement Credit in the ENVS major

  • Students scoring a 5 on the AP Environmental Science exam will normally skip BIOL 117 Environmental Science and take an additional Environmental Studies science elective.
  • Students scoring a 4 or 5 on the AP Chemistry exam may opt to skip CHEM 181 Atoms & Molecules and take CHEM 231 Equilibrium & Reactivity instead.
  • Students will forfeit their AP Chemistry credit if they choose to take CHEM 181 instead.
  • AP Statistics or AP Microeconomics: Talk to the Director.
  • AP credits may be used for advanced placement in the Environmental Studies major; however, they do not reduce the number of courses required.  Students are invited to contact the program director with questions.

AP credits cannot be applied toward the ENVS minor.

Environmental Studies Minor

The Environmental Studies Minor is a multidisciplinary program of study that involves 7 courses from at least 3 departments. Each student tailors the minor to his/her own interests and strengths within the curricular guidelines. Students may apply for an Environmental Studies Minor in conjunction with any major. 

Students seeking to minor in ENVS are required to meet with the Director of ENVS (currently Prof. Luria) to devise a list of available courses that complement the student’s major.

All ENVS minors are required to have successfully completed all of the pre-requisite courses to be admitted into upper-level courses. 

Only two courses can count toward both a major and the ENVS minor.

New Minor requirements

(7 courses, beginning with class of 2023)

1. BIOL 117 Environmental Science or BIOL 280 General Ecology

2. ENVS 118 Environmental Perspectives

3. One environmental humanities course

4. One environmental social science course

5. And 6. Two additional environmental science courses

7. One more environmental course in any area 

No more than 2 courses can overlap with major, and at least three courses must be at the 200-level or higher.

Old Minor requirements

Science majors:

  • 4 environmental courses outside the sciences, 3 environmental science courses

Humanities and social science majors:

  • 4 environmental science courses, 3 environmental courses outside the sciences

All students: No more than 2 courses can overlap with your major

Courses in Environmental Studies:

Note that not every course is offered every year.  This is not a complete list; new Environmental Studies courses are being offered in all the above disciplines on a regular basis.  Some courses may have pre-requisites that are not listed.

Students may also use certain study abroad courses to fulfill major and minor requirements with prior permission from the Environmental Studies Study Abroad Coordinator.

Courses in Environmental Humanities:

  • Appropriate Montserrat courses (e.g., Environmental Justice, Wilderness & Environmentalism, Germany’s Greening, etc.)
  • CHIN 251 China and the Environment 
  • CLAS 233 Nature in the Classical World 
  • ENGL 344 Romantic Revolutions  
  • ENGL 351 Thoreau Then and Now  
  • ENGL 325 Georgic and Pastoral  
  • ENGL 377 Environmental Poetics  
  • ENGL 399 Reading Nature 
  • ENGL 399 Early Modern Ecologies  
  • GERM 299 German Environmentalism  
  • HIST 140   Nature and Society 
  • HIST 199   Food, Power, and the Environment
  • HIST 230   Environmental History
  • HIST 299 Europe’s First Global Age
  • HIST 305 America’s First Global Age  
  • PHIL 240 Environmental Ethics 
  • PHIL 247 Environmental Political Philosophy 
  • RELS 255 Ecology and Religion 
  • RELS 260 Comparative Mysticism and Human Ecology 
  • RELS 353 Theology and Ecology
  • RELS 340 Gardens and World Religions 
  • RUSS 253 Fire and Ice
  • VAHI 250 Making the Modern City 
  • VAHI 299 American Landscapes 
  • VAHI 330 Designing Green
  • VAST 206 Drawn to Nature

Courses in Environmental Social Sciences:

  • Appropriate Montserrat courses  
  • ANTH 199 Humans and Non-Humans
  • ECON 224 Environmental Economics (prerequisite ECON 110 Principles of Economics)
  • POLS 257 Politics of Development
  • POLS 259 Natural Resource Conflicts in Latin America (prerequisite POLS 102 or by permission)
  • POLS 285 Global Environmental Politics
  • POLS 286 Comparative Environmental Policy 
  • SOCL 210 Consumer and Corporate Sustainability (prerequisite SOCL 101 or by permission)
  • SOCL 236 Environmental Sociology 
  • SOCL 238 Cities and Environment 
  • SOCL 399 Disaster Sociology 
  • SOCL 399 Social Disruption and the City

Courses in Environmental Sciences:

  • Appropriate Montserrat courses (e.g., Analyzing Environmental Data)
  • BIOL 117 Environmental Science
  • BIOL 163 Intro to Bio. Diversity and Ecology
  • BIOL 233 Freshwater Ecology with lab (BIOL 163 prerequisite)
  • BIOL 235 Marine Biology with lab (BIOL 163 prerequisite)
  • BIOL 250 Field Botany with lab (BIOL 163 prerequisite)
  • BIOL 280 General Ecology with lab (BIOL 117 or 163 prerequisite)
  • BIOL 299 Ornithology
  • BIOL 331 Ecosystem Ecology (BIOL 163 + 1 ecology course prerequisite)
  • BIOL 381 Conservation Biology (BIOL 233 or 261 or 262 or 280 or 331 prerequisite)
  • CHEM 141 Environmental Chemistry with lab 
  • CHEM 181 Atoms & Molecules
  • CHEM 231 Equilibrium and Reactivity with lab (Major only)
  • CHEM 300 Analytical Chemistry (Major only)
  • GEOS 150 Intro to Geology with lab
  • GEOS 199 Geohazards (Minor only)
  • GEOS 210 Geomorphology with lab
  • GEOS 270 Watershed Hydrology with lab (prior math or science recommended)
  • GEOS 310 Paleoclimatology (CHEM 181 or GEOS 150 prerequisite)
  • GEOS 350 Oceanography (CHEM 231 prerequisite)
  • PHYS 199 Physics of Energy 

Courses in Quantitative Reasoning or GIS:

  • BIOL 275 Biological Statistics 
  • ENVS 247 Introduction to Geographic Information Systems
  • MATH 220 Statistics (Majors only)
  • MATH 303 Mathematical Modeling

Environmental Studies Courses Fall 2020

department courses common req infor.

117 Environmental Science

163 Environmental Diversity and Ecology

201 Microbiology of a Hurricane

235 Marine Biology

275 Biostatistics

280 Ecology

281 Conservation Biology









181 Atoms and Molecules

231 Equilibrium & Reactivity





110 Principles of Economics- 6 sections

224 Environmental Economics




350 Early American Colonialism



Environmental Studies

118 Environmental Perspectives

399 Capstone Seminar







Sociology 299 Social Disruption SOC SCI, ENVS

150 Intro to Geology

199 Habitable Planets


275 US Mexican Border


303 Mathematical Models

Political Science

257 Politics of Development

Religious Studies

255 Ecology & Religion

260 Comparative Mysticism and Human Ecology




220 Statistics



Advice for Potential Majors and Minors

Students contemplating the Environmental Studies major or minor should take BIO 117 Environmental Science during their first year (and no later than the spring of their second year), and potential majors should plan to take ECON 110 before the end of their second year. Performance and interests in these courses will help you decide on majoring or minoring in Environmental Studies.

Students interested in Environmental Studies must meet with the director to discuss the program’s curriculum and to determine their level of interest and aptitude. Below are a series of questions we use to help potential Environmental Studies students find the best major and level of involvement in the program. We encourage some students to pursue majors in traditional departments and be involved in Environmental Studies as either a minor or "friend of the program." 

Consideration #1: Are you really best served by majoring in biology or chemistry? Students who aspire to attend graduate school or careers in environmental science should be advised to fully consider biology or chemistry as a major and Environmental Studies as a minor.

Consideration #2: Are you really best served by majoring in a social science discipline with a traditional department (e.g., economics, political science, or sociology) and minoring in Environmental Studies? Students who aspire to pursue graduate school in the social sciences or environmental policy or work at an economic firm are advised to fully consider this option.

Consideration #3: Are you really best served by majoring in a humanities department (e.g., English, history, philosophy, or religion) and minoring in Environmental Studies?

Consideration #4: Finally, are you perhaps really best served by majoring in Environmental Studies? A) Are your interests in Environmental Studies and post-graduate aspirations well defined? B) Do you have a sufficient academic record and strong performance in environmental science, suggesting that you will succeed in the other required science courses? C) Are you likely to flourish in a multidisciplinary program?

Frequently Asked Questions

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 (biologychemistry, or physics) and minoring in Environmental Studies. The Environmental Studies major is for students who are interested in a truly multidisciplinary program with significant coursework in the social sciences and humanities.

Where Can I find Environmental Studies courses?

In the STAR Course Search window, select "Environmental Studies" under "Subject."  You will see all courses that count toward the ENVS major and minor listed there.

I'd like to minor in Environmental Studies but don't plan to be a biology 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 Environmental Studies students in without prerequisites is solely up to the course instructor. If you are interested in these upper level biology classes, you will probably need to take biology 163 and possibly other biology classes first, but talk to the professor about it before your enrollment period.

I started out as a biology major and took Bio 161 and/or Bio 162. Do I still need to take Bio 163 for the Environmental Studies 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.

What classes should I take first? 

ENVS 118 Environmental Perspectives and BIOL 117 are the two "gateway" courses to the major and minor, so it is best if possible to start with those.  That said, you are welcome to take any course listed under Environmental Studies that interests you.  That can be the best way to determine if you still wish to pursue the major or minor. 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 if you can; note that only first- and second-year students can enroll in BIOL 117 and ECON 110. Minors should also try to take ENVS 118 Environmental Perspectives and BIOL 117 Environmental Science before the end of sophomore year

Can I fulfill common area requirements with Environmental Studies courses?
Certainly! Many Environmental Studies courses carry common area designations, and there is no limit to the number of common area requirements that can be fulfilled through the Environmental Studies major or minor.

I took an environmentally themed Montserrat class. Does that count towards the major or minor?
Maybe. Certain Montserrat courses can be applied toward the Environmental Studies 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.