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 Requirements

    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 or ENVS B201: Laboratory in Environmental Sciences
    • ENVS H202 or ENVS B202: Environment and Society
    • ENVS H203 or ENVS B203: Environmental Humanities
    • ENVS H204 or ENVS B204: Environmental Studies Praxis
    • ENVS H397 or ENVS B397 or ENVS S091: Environmental Studies Senior Capstone (during the fall or spring semester of the senior year)

    Students interested in pursuing an ENVS major are strongly encouraged to 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.

    II. Electives and focus area (5 credits)

    In addition to the core courses, ENVS majors must complete five electives. A wide variety of environmentally themed courses may serve as ENVS electives, including many courses offered by other departments and programs. Each student's set of elective courses must fulfill the following requirements:

    • 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.
    • At least three elective courses must articulate a coherent intellectual or thematic focus (a “focus area”) that students develop in consultation with their ENVS advisor;

    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 ENVS advisor. Early planning for the ENVS major allows students to begin satisfying prerequisites for advanced focus area courses.

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

    Courses taken as ENVS major electives need not be prefixed with “ENVS” in the course catalog. Advanced courses with appropriate thematic content offered by any program, from Africana Studies, through Mathematics, to Visual Studies, may be counted. 

    Upon declaration of the ENVS major, the coursework plan must be approved by a major advisor on the student's home campus. Courses approved for the Environmental Studies major at Swarthmore can be taken for the Bi-Co ENVS 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 ENVS major by the major advisor in consultation with the Bi-Co ENVS Department faculty.

    Senior Project

    Students majoring in Environmental Studies will pursue their capstone experience in any one of a number of ways, centered within the one-semester ENVS H397 or ENVS B397 course. In this course, students will design and complete a project under the supervision of a faculty member that builds upon methods learned in the ENVS 200-level sequence and elaborated on during the Focus Area. In most cases, ENVS 397 will involve collaborating with one or more outside organizations or groups, and senior projects will be an individual project designed in concert with the faculty member and these organizations. For example, senior projects could include, but are not limited to, digital mapping and annotation of green space, the design and implementation of an environmental education curricular module, or an environmental art project. Students are strongly encouraged to consider possible senior project topics or techniques they would like to use prior to their senior year, and to be in dialogue with their faculty advisors about possible senior projects during the third year of study.

    Senior Project Learning Goals

    • Collaboration with others, including students, faculty and staff, and outside partners
      Each senior is expected to hone the skills required to collaborate in an effective fashion throughout the course of the senior project. These skills are likely to include working effectively outside of the campus space. 
    • Application of techniques and methods acquired during the major sequence
      The senior project is an opportunity for each student to demonstrate and apply the skills that are acquired during the ENVS major sequence, from research skills to communication skills. Students are expected to bring their unique strengths, approaches, and prior coursework to bear on the senior project.
    • Independent knowledge and responsibility
      Each senior is responsible for their share of the project, even if it is part of a larger, team-based, collaborative effort. Students will demonstrate responsibility in the design and implementation of the project, in conversation with the faculty advisor and outside voices. Careful planning and consistent work effort are essential to completing a senior project.
    • Ethical practices for campus and community-oriented work
      Students will build upon the knowledge acquired during the ENVS 200-level sequence to collaborate with on- and off-campus partners in an ethical and responsible way. This includes practicing ethical scholarship, sharing work effectively, and collaborating. 
    • Creativity in approaches to major questions
      Students will address the central topic of their senior project in creative and original ways. This should include some element of creative risk or ambition, which is encouraged and supervised by the ENVS faculty.

    Senior Project Assessment

    At the conclusion of a Senior Project, students will be expected to present their final project in an oral form to their peers and faculty from the ENVS department. In addition, each student will also be expected to submit a written form of the final project that documents their project and reflects on the experience. The faculty member supervising ENVS H397 will evaluate student work based on the quality and effort brought to bear during the project, and will assign a final numerical grade for the Senior Project. This faculty member may consult with other members of the ENVS department to provide feedback to individual students prior to Commencement.

  • Minor Requirements

    The Tri-Co ENVS minor consists of six courses, including an introductory course. Students may complete the introductory course at any of the three campuses. 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 ENVS website for course lists and more about core and cognate courses.) 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.
    • An advanced elective in Environmental Studies (300-level, or its equivalent at Swarthmore) that can be from either category.

    Haverford students interested in the ENVS minor should plan their course schedule with the ENVS Chair in consultation with their major advisor. In choosing electives, students should aim 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.

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