Academic Program

How do we design environmental solutions that are just, equitable, and sustainable? How do we transform the systems and ways of life that have created the global environmental crisis? And how do we explain the values and ideas that people have used to make that crisis comprehensible?

The Environmental Studies Program is committed to answering these questions. Our core faculty conduct innovative research on topics that include environmental justice, design and climate change, and the politics of place, and our faculty affiliates teach in a wide range of fields across the college curriculum.

The major and  concentration in Environmental Studies prepare students to put critical environmental thinking into practice. As one of the oldest environmental studies programs in the world, founded in 1967, we have alumni who are leading global conversations about the twin challenges of inequity and environmental degradation. With their support, we coordinate a summer internship program that enables dozens of students each year to work in leading labs, serve in government offices, learn the latest techniques in sustainable agriculture, write environmental fiction, and much more. The Zilkha Center for the Environment facilitates co-curricular environmental education and manages the Hopkins Memorial Forest, a 2600-acre long-term research site located 1.5 miles from campus. Faculty and student research is also supported by the Environmental Analysis Laboratory in the Morley Science Laboratory


Pictured: A comparison sheet for the Environmental Studies Program shows the difference between requirements for the major, concentration, and Maritime Studies concentration. CLICK TO DOWNLOAD.

Incoming students with an interest in Environmental Studies should consider taking ENVI 101: Nature and Society during their first year at Williams. This gateway course is required for the major and the concentration and provides an intellectual framework for critical, interdisciplinary environmental inquiry in the social sciences and humanities while surveying the most pressing environmental problems of our time. In the spring, many first-year students also take ENVI 102: Introduction to Environmental Science, which provides an overview of the discipline in the context of the interconnected global earth system: the geosphere, atmosphere, hydrosphere, and biosphere. In this class, students are introduced to scientific methods from physics, chemistry, geology, and biology that are used to examine real-world case studies at global and local scales.

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 with strong interests in more traditional disciplines such as biology, chemistry, geosciences, or economics are advised to begin the introductory course sequence for those subjects in their first semester as well. These students have two main options: a major in a traditional discipline with a concentration in Environmental Studies–a popular choice for students who wish to attend graduate school in the so-called “hard sciences”–or a double major.

Students interested in the Environmental Studies major or concentration are encouraged to consult with members of the Environmental Studies Program and to contact the Environmental Studies Chair ([email protected]