From ancient Sumer to the present, ecological realities have required human beings to reflect on their values and their responsibilities to nature. Citizens of the 21st century need a truly broad foundation to deal with the complexities of current environmental issues. By examining environmental issues and their interactions with our society, students learn to recognize cultural ties to the environment, food production, urban planning, biodiversity, and society’s energy and water requirements.
About The Program
The environmental studies major is designed to teach students how to understand their physical and social environments as the intersection of a variety of overlapping forces, including constraints of biology and climate, as well as the influence of law and public policy, literature and philosophy. The major prepares students for a variety of careers in such diverse fields as law, public policy, scientific research, environmental literature, and teaching. As the major draws upon courses from across all four academic schools of the university, the skills and knowledge imparted to students are correspondingly broad, yet centered around an abiding concern with the environment.
In addition to practicing scientific, social science, and humanities approaches to the study of the environment, students will learn to understand the interrelationships among science, society, technology, culture, and nature. Through an interdisciplinary approach, the major prepares students to recognize and address such challenges as resource depletion, habitat loss, environmental degradation, pollution, and loss of biodiversity, with the ultimate goal of fostering a sustainable human society.
Major: Environmental Studies (BA)
Minor: Environmental Studies
Chair: Dr. J. Christopher Haley
School: Joan P. Brock School of Mathematics and Natural Sciences
All students in the program can conduct an intensive study of the environment through an internship or independent research project. The internship is a practiced, supervised experience in which students apply their knowledge and skills to the workplace. Practical and applied learning in an applied setting gives the student a “competitive edge” for future community and workplace contribution. Placements can include educational settings, grassroots activism, public policy, and habitat management. Independent research can include a variety of potential topics under the mentorship of a VWU faculty member.
ENVS 283: Seminar in Alaska: Sustainability
Description: The majestic landscape of southeast Alaska provides the backdrop for this field-based course and allows hands-on exploration of the complex relationships between people and environments. "Live the text" as you learn about climate change while walking on a retreating glacier, study the life cycle of salmon while rafting the Chilkat River, identify plants and animals during a hike through a temperate rainforest, and discuss ancient and contemporary concepts of sustainability with native Tlingit people.
Beyond the Classroom
The environmental studies program prepares students well for a variety of diverse career fields. Students have gone on to pursue careers in law, public policy, scientific research, environmental literature, and teaching.