Environmental Studies

The purpose of the Environmental Studies Program at Holy Cross is to equip students with the knowledge and skills necessary to engage fundamental questions related to the natural environment. The Program is interdisciplinary and emphasizes the complex interactions between humans and the environment. Environmental Studies students engage directly with the natural sciences to investigate the forces shaping environmental change.  They study the historical, philosophical, cultural, artistic, and religious traditions that have shaped understandings of the relationship between humans and the environment. They also analyze the political and economic forces that generate the incentives shaping human/environment interactions. The Environmental Studies program seeks to foster informed discussion of core questions of environmental sustainability at the College, local, regional, and global levels and to prepare students to be active and effective leaders in confronting environmental challenges.

Majors: Students considering a major in Environmental Studies should consider enrolling in BIOL 117 Environmental Science in the first year. Students may also want to consider taking a course in the Environmental Studies core curriculum (e.g., CHEM 181 or ECON 110), and/or taking an environmentally themed Montserrat course.

Minors: Students considering a minor in Environmental Studies should also consider enrolling in BIOL 117 Environmental Science in the first year, and/or taking an environmentally themed Montserrat course.

All students considering the Environmental Studies major or minor should be aware that many ENVS classes count towards one of the College’s common area requirements, including the natural sciences, history, religious studies, philosophy, literature, social sciences, and the arts.

BIOL 117
Environmental Science
Common Area: Natural Science

The goal of this course is to provide an understanding of major environmental problems by studying their biological bases. Applied and basic material will be integrated in most sections. Basic topics include ecosystem structure, energy flow, biogeochemical cycles, population growth and regulation, and environmental policy. Applied topics include human population growth, agriculture and food production, pest control, conservation of forests and wildlife, preservation of biological diversity, energy use, water and air pollution, and atmospheric climate change.

CHEM 181
Atoms & Molecules
Common Area: Natural Science

This introductory course will lead students to explore in depth the scientific method through the formulation and testing of hypotheses in the laboratory. Laboratory experiments (using modern instrumentation) will lead students to discover basic principles, i.e., stoichiometric relationships, electronic configuration and molecular structure. Lectures will explain and expand upon lab results. It is the first course in the introductory chemistry sequence for science majors and students interested in health professions.

ECON 110
Principles of Economics
Common Area: Social Science

Economics is the study of the allocation of scarce resources among competing uses.  Microeconomics investigates how households and firms make individual decisions concerning the allocation of resources. Macroeconomics studies aggregate level economic outcomes such as growth, inflation, unemployment, interest rates, exchange rates, technological progress, and government budgets. This course introduces the central topics of both microeconomics and macroeconomics in one semester.

ENVS 118
Environmental Perspectives
Common Area: Social Science

This course introduces students to the interdisciplinary field of environmental studies, which examines the diverse relationships between humans and the natural and constructed worlds in which they live. This course will examine the complex ways that we think about what constitutes “nature” and “environment” and how humans do and should relate to these categories. It will then provide an overview of the emergence of environmental challenges as a topic of concern in the United States and globally as well as encourage students to engage with contemporary environmental challenges. We will place special emphasis on questions of how axes of difference (class, race, ethnicity, nationality, etc.) intersect with environmental change, using social justice as a core lens through which we will define, describe, and analyze impacts of and solutions to environmental challenges. Integrating approaches from the social sciences and humanities, the course will provide students with essential background for engaging in subsequent Environmental Studies courses – and for living in a rapidly changing world.

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