The Center for Environmental Studies


The Environmental Studies Program at Williams College offers a major in Environmental Studies as well as a concentration in Environmental Studies designed to complement a major in a different discipline or subject area.

Critical environmental issues of our time call upon citizens, organizations, and other agencies to grasp complex science concepts, address conflicting human values, and make difficult economic, political and ethical choices. The curricular options in Environmental Studies—our major and our concentration—are designed to prepare students to deal effectively with these issues by integrating perspectives and methodologies from the natural sciences, the social sciences, and the arts and humanities.

We encourage and assist ENVI students to examine environmental issues in the vicinity of Berkshire County, other regions of the US, and the world. Many of our courses also include an experiential component so that students can learn the complexities of environmental issues first-hand.  The Center for Environmental Studies (CES) manages the 2600-acre Hopkins Memorial Forest and the Environmental Analysis Laboratory in the Morley Science Laboratory, both of which afford great opportunities for hands-on environmental lab experience and fieldwork. CES also sponsors a wide range of environmentally-themed activities, events, and programs, including the Friday noon Log Lunch speaker series and an extensive program of generous support for summer internships relating to environmental issues.

Students who wish to pursue a major in Environmental Studies prepare an individualized “plan for the major” in the spring semester of the sophomore year with the help of a faculty advisor from the ENVI program.  Each such “plan” combines a core set of courses with an individualized 5-course elective cluster tailored to the student’s particular disciplinary or topical interests.

Incoming students with an interest in Environmental Studies should consider taking ENVI 101: Nature and Society during their first semester at Williams. (ENVI 101 is offered only in the fall semester of each year.) This gateway course is required for the major and the concentration and provides an excellent overview of the most critical environmental issues of our time, bringing together scientific, political, ethical and cultural perspectives. ENVI 101 also serves to introduce students to the challenges and rewards of interdisciplinary study, preparing them for the more advanced courses to follow.

While ENVI 101 is a recommended starting point for both the major and the concentration, many students come to Environmental Studies through an interest in applying a specific discipline to environmental problems. Students who think that they may wish to pursue a “plan of study” that focuses on environmental biology, environmental chemistry or environmental geosciences or on economics are advised to begin the introductory course sequence for those subjects in their first semester as well.

The Environmental Studies Program also serves as the on-campus base for the Williams-Mystic Program, an extraordinary maritime studies program housed at Williams Mystic Campus on the Atlantic coast in Connecticut.  Students who wish to pursue a concentration in Maritime Studies combine a one-semester course of study at the Williams-Mystic campus with core courses and elective courses as described in the college catalog.  Students may spend a semester at the Mystic campus in either the sophomore, junior, or senior year; choosing which semester to spend at Mystic should be done in consultation with a member of the Environmental Studies faculty.

Students interested in the Environmental Studies major or concentration or in the maritime Studies concentration are encouraged to consult with members of the Environmental Studies Program and to contact the Environmental Studies Director or Associate Director.

For additional information 

Department News

Log Lunch with Jahnavi Kirtane ’24 and Mirabai Dyson ’24: ENVI Thesis Presentations

On a beautifully sunny Friday, May 3, the community once again gathered for Log Lunch. As the last Log Lunch of the 23-24 year with a guest speaker, people were excited. The meal provided by the student cooks only added...

Log Lunch with Eve Schaub: Recycling Lies and Plastic Problems: What I Learned from a Year of No Garbage

On Friday, April 26, the community gathered for another excellent Log Lunch meal and speaker. On this day, the student cooks prepared a delicious meal of a chickpea coconut lemon curry, samosas, naan, garlic-chive chutney, a yogurt sauce, a crisp...

Log Lunch with Mayor Kathy Sheehan of Albany, NY: A Case Study on Creating Affordable Renewable Energy in a Disadvantaged Neighborhood

On cloudy and quite warm Friday, April 19, the community gathered for another delicious Log Lunch. Today, the student cooks prepared an excellent meal consisting of chive pancakes, “build your own bibimbap” with crispy tofu, soft-boiled eggs, spicy sesame shredded...
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