Environmental Studies Major and Minor

The Bi-Co ES major and the Tri-Co ES minor cultivate in students the capacity to identify and confront key environmental issues through a blend of multiple disciplines, encompassing historical, cultural, economic, political, scientific, and ethical modes of inquiry.

Curriculum & Courses

The Bi-Co ES major combines the strengths of our two liberal arts campuses to create an interdisciplinary program that teaches students to synthesize diverse disciplinary knowledge and approaches, and to communicate effectively across disciplinary boundaries as they engage with environmental issues. In addressing these issues, ES students will apply critical thinking and analytical skills within a holistic, systems framework that includes social justice as an essential component.

Haverford, Bryn Mawr, and Swarthmore also offer an interdisciplinary Tri-Co ES minor, involving departments and faculty on all three campuses from the natural sciences, engineering, mathematics, the social sciences, the humanities, and the arts. The Tri-Co ES minor brings together students and faculty to explore interactions among earth systems, human societies, and local and global environments.

  • Major

    Students are required to take a minimum of 11 courses in the Environmental Studies major.

    I. Core courses (6 credits)

    Six required courses are in the core program, which consists of:

    • ENVS H101 or ENVS B101 or ENVS S001: Case Studies in Environmental Issues
    • ENVS H201: Laboratory in Environmental Sciences
    • ENVS B202: Environmental Social Sciences
    • ENVS B203: Environmental Humanities
    • ENVS H204: Place, People, and Praxis in Environmental Studies
    • ENVS H397 or ENVS B397 or ENVS S091: Environmental Studies Senior Capstone (during the fall or spring semester of the senior year)

    It is strongly recommended that students interested in pursuing an ES major take ENVS 101 during their first year of study. 

    ENVS 101 and 397 are each offered two times per year: once at Haverford and once at Bryn Mawr, frequently in alternate semesters. Students are welcome to take these courses on either campus, or the equivalent courses at Swarthmore (ENVS S001 and ENVS S091).

    II. Electives and focus area (5 credits)

    In addition to the core courses, students must take five electives for the ES major. A wide variety of environmentally themed courses may serve as ES electives, but the five elective courses must fulfill the following requirements:

    • At least three elective courses must articulate a coherent intellectual or thematic focus (“focus area”) that students develop in consultation with their ES advisor;
    • A minimum of one course must come from each of two broad divisional groups:
      • Natural sciences, mathematics, and engineering;
      • Social sciences, humanities, and arts.
    • At least two elective courses must be taken at the 300-level or equivalent.

    III. Focus area

    The possibilities of a focus area are many. A student’s focus area may be organized by a specific perspective on the study of the environment, a particular interdisciplinary focus, or even a geographic region. Focus areas are designated in consultation with an ES advisor, and students interested in pursuing an ES major should begin to satisfy prerequisites for these advanced courses as soon as possible.

    Sample focus area topics might include, but not be limited to: Environment and Society, Environmental Policy, Earth Systems, Environmental Modeling, Environmental Art and Technology, and Environment in East Asia.

    Courses taken as ES major electives need not be prefixed with “ENVS” in the course catalog. Advanced courses from any program with appropriate thematic content, from English to Physics, may be counted. 

    All major programs require the approval of a major advisor. Courses approved for the Environmental Studies major at Swarthmore can be taken for the Bi-Co ES major or substituted for requirements contingent upon the major advisor’s approval.

    Courses taken while studying abroad or off-campus may be approved for the ES major by the major advisor in consultation with the ES Department.

  • Minor

    The Tri-Co ES minor consists of six courses, including an introductory course and capstone course. Students may complete the introductory and capstone courses at any of the three campuses (or any combination thereof). The six required courses are:

    • A required introductory course to be taken prior to the senior year. This may be ENVS H101 at Haverford or ENVS B101 at Bryn Mawr or the parallel course at Swarthmore (ENVS S001). Any one of these courses satisfies the requirement, and students may take no more than one such course for credit toward the minor.
    • Four elective course credits from approved lists of core and cognate courses, including two credits in each of the following two categories. Students may use no more than one cognate course credit for each category. (See the ES website for course lists and more about core and cognate courses.) For Haverford students, no more than one of these four course credits may be in the student’s major.
      • Environmental Science, Engineering, and Math: courses that build understanding and knowledge of scientific methods and theories, and explore how these can be applied in identifying and addressing environmental challenges. At least one of the courses in this category must have a laboratory component.
      • Environmental Social Sciences, Humanities, and Arts: courses that build understanding and knowledge of social and political structures as well as ethical considerations, and how these inform our individual and collective responses to environmental challenges.
    • A senior seminar (case-based), with culminating work that reflects tangible research design and inquiry, but might materialize in any number of project forms. Haverford and Bryn Mawr’s ENVS B397/ENVS H397 (Senior Seminar in Environmental Studies) and Swarthmore’s ENVS S091 (Environmental Studies Capstone Seminar) satisfy the requirement.

    Haverford students interested in the ES minor should plan their course schedule with the Haverford Director of Environmental Studies in consultation with their major advisor. In choosing electives, we encourage students to reach beyond their major, and to include mostly intermediate or advanced courses.

Research & Outreach

Formed in great part in response to strong student interest, our program has been infinitely enriched by ongoing student involvement. Their deep commitment to the environment has helped create an academic community in which classroom rigor goes hand in hand with active engagement in protecting our world.

After Graduation

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