Environmental Studies

View Environmental Studies web site

Environmental studies is broadly defined as the study of nature, including the relationship of humans to the rest of the natural world. Presently, human activities are altering the life systems of our home planet. Species extinction, atmospheric pollution, and loss of ancient forests are common knowledge, as is the planetary impact of human populations and consumption habits. These problems have a biological basis that requires the application of the scientific method to understand them, to discern cause and effects, and to pose scientifically tenable solutions. However, concern for and stewardship of the planet is not solely the purview of the scientist. Our understanding of these issues is impossible without social, cultural, political, ethical, and economic considerations. The work of understanding these trends and forming alternate visions for the future draws upon ideas, information, and insight from disciplines across the curriculum as well as from co-curricular activities.

The goals of the minor are two-fold: 1) to achieve cross-disciplinary perspectives on environmental studies, and 2) to create a community of concern among students and faculty who participate in the study area—a community that encourages learning how to act as well as to understand. Even if no environmental problems existed, students and faculty would study how natural systems function, how the arts and social studies reveal connections between humanity and nature, and how the environment has nurtured philosophical and religious ideas about the place of humans in the universe.

Students electing the environmental studies minor will achieve its goals by: 1) understanding the biological basis for environmental issues by taking either BIOL 100 or 101: "Contemporary Bioscience" with an environmental focus or BIOL 271: "Ecology and Evolution"; 2) expanding this knowledge base and obtaining cross-disciplinary perspectives by enrolling in elective courses from at least three disciplines; and 3) developing fuller awareness of environmental issues as well as fostering community by common enrollment in the Environmental Perspectives course.

DEGREE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE MINOR

Currently, environmental studies is offered as a minor. To complete a minor in environmental studies, a student must satisfy the following requirements designed to establish the breadth and depth of knowledge consistent with the goals of the environmental studies study area.

  1. General College requirements. (See “Curriculum” section.)
  2. All requirements in a major discipline of study.
  3. At least 22 credit-hours in courses having an environmental focus as specified under a., b., and c. Students must earn a grade of C- or better in each required course for the minor and maintain an overall GPA of 2.0 or better in these required courses:
    1. Two credits of ENST 233: Environmental Perspectives.
    2. BIOL 100 or 101: Contemporary Bioscience with an environmental focus: (See online “Schedule of Classes" for correct section.) or BIOL 271: Ecology and Evolution
    3. Elective courses: 16 credit-hours in courses with environmental studies focus, at least 8 of which must be at the 300-400 level, to be selected from at least three disciplines.

Listed below is a partial list of course offerings with an Environmental Studies focus:

Each year the coordinator of the study area and other participating faculty designate certain courses, including new courses, topic courses, and special offerings that will satisfy elective requirements. A complete list of approved current offerings will appear in the online “Schedule of Classes.”

Students with an interest in environmental studies are urged to consult with the study area coordinator or participating faculty members. Students are also encouraged to declare their participation in the environmental studies cross-disciplinary study area as soon as possible and no later than the end of the first week of their senior year. It is also suggested that students seek a secondary adviser from the participating faculty.

Because the required biology course provides an ecological basis for environmental studies, students should consider early enrollment in BIOL 100 or 101 with an environmental focus or BIOL 271. Students wishing to pursue their St. Mary’s Project in environmental studies may do so with the permission of their major department(s) and with the agreement of an environmental studies faculty member who serves as the project mentor. Project credit does not count as part of the required environmental studies curriculum.

ENVIRONMENTAL STUDIES COURSES (ENST)

ENST 233. Environmental Perspectives (2F)

This course is a survey of environmental perspectives, including the scientific, artistic, economic, political, and philosophical. By providing students with the opportunity to interact with peers and expert guests from various disciplines, the course also fosters community among those interested in the natural world.

ENST 350. Topics in Environmental Studies (4)

Various topics in environmental studies are considered in this course, which can vary across disciplines, but be suitable for all students participating in the environmental studies program. The subject matter of the course may vary each time the course is offered. This course may be repeated for credit, provided the topic or focus changes significantly. For a description of each course, see the current online “Schedule of Classes." Prerequisite: any prior course in Environmental Studies or permission of the instructor.

ENST 450. Seminar in Environmental Studies (4)

Various topics in environmental studies are considered in this course, which can vary across disciplines, but be suitable for all students participating in the environmental studies program. The subject matter of the course may vary each time the course is offered. This course may be repeated for credit, provided the topic or focus changes significantly. For a description of each course, see the current online “Schedule of Classes." Prerequisite: any prior course in Environmental Studies or permission of the instructor.

ENST 493/494. St. Mary's Project in Environmental Studies (1-8E)

This project, which may take many forms, draws on and extends knowledge, skills of analysis, and creative achievement developed through previous academic work. The student initiates the project, identifies an area to be explored, and proposes a method of inquiry appropriate to the topic. The project should include a reflection on the social context, the body of literature, or the conceptual framework to which it is a contribution. It must be shared with the College community through posters, presentation, or other means. This course is repeatable up to 8 credit-hours. Pre- or co-requisite: requirement of study area in Environmental Studies. Approval of faculty mentor, environmental studies coordinator, and the department chair(s) of the student's major.

ENST 199, 299, 399, 499. Independent Study (1-4E)

This course consists of an independent creative or research project designed by the student and supervised by an environmental studies faculty member. The nature of the project, the schedule for accomplishment, and the means of evaluation must be formalized in a learning contract prior to registration. (See "Independent Study" under "Academic Policies" section.)

ENST 398, 498. Off-Campus Internship (4-16E)

A variety of off-campus experiential learning opportunities can be arranged through the director of internships and study abroad. The off-campus internship is an individually designed experience that allows the student to explore the relationships between learning in the classroom and the practical application of knowledge in everyday work situations. Prerequisites: admission to the Internship Program and approval of the environmental studies coordinator. (See "Internships" under "Academic Policies" section.) Credit/No credit grading.