Sustainability-Related Coursework Offered at the University

What do Rachel Carson, Edward O. Wilson, and Bill McKibben have in common? Each of these people has brought certain environmental issues to society’s attention.  However, their similarities are more than just their professional accomplishments. Each person studied some aspect of the environment while attending college. The University offers sustainability related coursework including a new master’s program, related majors, a minor, and several cluster options.

A new MS in Sustainability was approved by New York State this past spring. The Center for Energy and Environment will be accepting applications for fall 2018 enrollment. The one-year master’s program teaches skills to understand and evaluate the environmental and public health impact of energy and other industrial production processes and usage, and to suggest sustainable solutions. More information about this program is available here.

There are two undergraduate majors in the natural sciences that focus heavily on the environment: Environmental Science and Environmental Studies. The difference between these two majors is that the Environmental Studies major offers “the scientific foundation, as well as the other dimensions of environmental issues such as the social sciences and the humanities to study how these environmental issues affect people,” said Earth & Environmental Sciences Professor Karen Berger. “Most of my classes talk about the science and the impact the science has on specific groups of people.” The core courses required of each of the programs are:

  • EES 100 Introduction to Oceanography
  • EES 101 Introduction to Geological Sciences
  • EES 103 Introduction to Environmental Science
  • EES 105 Introduction to Climate Change

Studying environmental issues is not limited to the natural sciences. The College offers a minor and numerous clusters in Sustainability, administered through the Multidisciplinary Studies Center. The minor and clusters exist to “provide a curriculum that encourages students to learn to communicate and to solve problems of societal relevance that straddle disciplinary boundaries in sustainability and global change.”

The Environmental Humanities Program (EHU) is another route to approach in studying sustainability. Currently, the College offers an Environmental Humanities minor and a Sustainability and the Humanities cluster. Professor Leila Nadir offers a class in the subject. “The Environmental Humanities Program offers students the opportunity to study ecological issues with humanities approaches, including literary representations, cultural study, critical thinking, history, and creative arts,” said Nadir. “A big question for EHU courses is: How do we represent, understand, even perceive this thing called the ‘environment?’ What are the assumptions we are making about ‘nature’ that we thought were truths but are actually the result of history, culture, values, and social difference?”

Nadir welcomes those who are interested to take a core course required for the minor. “I’d love to have interested students in my literature class (CAS 245/ENG 245: Literature and the Modern Environmental Imagination)! It’s an immensely popular course, and I’ve had students completely revolutionize in how they understand nature and the environment after the class. My favorite comment from a first-year student was, ‘I didn’t even like nature before this class, and now it’s all I think about.’ That student has gone on to take three more classes with me.” The core courses required of the EHU program are:

  • CAS 245/ENG 245: Literature and the Modern Environmental Imagination
  • HIS 225: Environmental History
  • PHL 230: Environmental Justice
  • GSW 211: Politics of Nature: Gender, Race, and Environment

The University’s Center for Education Abroad also offers numerous programs through which students can study environmental topics and sustainability in different countries. The IES Galapagos program in Ecuador is perfect for students interested in ecological issues, and offers an opportunity to visit the Charles Darwin Research Station. Australia National University offers many courses in the subject of sustainability, including “Corporate Sustainability,” “Sustainable Agricultural Systems,” and “Sustainable Marketing.”  Follow the link for a full list of study abroad programs recommended for students interested in these topics.


Written by Michaela Burrell, Class of 2020

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