Environmental Studies Major

Overview of the Major and Concentrations for Classes of 2018 and Subsequent Classes

The Environmental Studies major is an eleven course major. The major has a “core” of six courses, with varying amounts of choice for the various “core” course requirements. All majors are required to take two of the courses, ENVI 101 and ENVI 102. ENVI 101, Nature and Society, is a broad introduction to the field, emphasizing the humanities and social sciences. ENVI 102, Environmental Science, introduces students to the interdisciplinary study of the Earth’s systems through the synthesis of physical, chemical, geological, and biological perspectives. All majors are also required to take, in the senior year (or junior year under special circumstances), one 400-level Environmental Studies capstone research practicum that involves either collaborative research on a specific environmental problem or client-driven team projects on issues of immediate environmental significance in the Berkshire region; we plan to offer students a choice of at least two such courses each year.  The remaining component of the “core” is comprised of three 200-level courses, one from each of three lists of courses, with each list representing the three main branches of the environmental curriculum (environmental humanities, environmental social science/policy, and environmental science). Students choose, in consultation with their major advisor, the course they will take from each of the three lists.

Building on this six-course foundation, each ENVI major devises an individualized five-course cluster of electives that together comprise a disciplinary or thematic specialization sequence—for example, climate change policy, environmental justice, environmental chemistry, land use planning, sustainable food and agriculture, sustainable cities, environmental ethics, etc. Students are responsible for designing their own specialization cluster in consultation with a faculty advisor and the CES Advisory Board in the spring semester of their sophomore year. One of these five electives in the cluster must be among those listed by the Program as a research methods course.  Examples of course clusters are listed below.

The study of living systems is an integral component of environmental studies, and therefore all students majoring in environmental studies will need to complete at least one course designated by the Program as a “living systems” course (this may be within their specialization cluster or as one of their 200-level foundational courses).

The Environmental Studies concentration is a six course concentration in which students gain broad exposure to environmental studies while pursuing another major. In addition to the core of ENVI 101, ENVI 102 and one of the 400-level ENVI capstone practicum courses, students pursuing the concentration will take one elective each from each of three lists of courses, each list representing a broad category of inquiry: the natural world; humanities, arts, and social sciences; and environmental policy.

The Maritime Studies concentration is a seven course concentration that builds on course work completed during the Williams-Mystic Maritime Studies Program. In addition to four intermediate-level core courses completed at Williams-Mystic, students pursuing the Maritime Studies concentration will also take the interdisciplinary introductory course GEOS 104 (Oceanography), an elective, and one of the 400-level ENVI capstone practicum courses. Students may attend the Williams-Mystic Program in their sophomore, junior or senior year. Students who have completed other study-away programs that emphasize marine studies should consult with the program chair about the possibility of completing the Maritime Studies concentration.

Submitting your Proposed “Course Cluster” and “Plan of Study” to the Major

Students intending to major in environmental studies must meet with a prospective advisor to develop their proposed five-course cluster and plan of study through the major. We encourage all students interested in the major to meet with a faculty member in Environmental Studies at least one week prior to spring Pre-registration to discuss their proposed cluster and plan of study. The proposals must be submitted to the program Chair on or before the final day of pre-registration in the spring of the sophomore year. Application materials and instructions are available from Environmental Studies faculty and on the CES website (ces.williams.edu). The proposals will be reviewed by the CES Advisory Board. Some examples of course clusters are listed below:

Environmental Studies Major: Sample Course Clusters

Credit for AP, IB, A-levels and other pre-Williams courses: At this time, students are not allowed to place out of ENVI 101. Students who have received an AP score of 5 in Environmental Science or a grade of 6 or higher in the IB Environmental Science course may in some circumstances be permitted to place  out of ENVI 102.  Students interested in doing so must submit a petition to the Chair or Associate Director of Environmental Studies requesting credit for ENVI 102. The petition should include the syllabus, course materials, assignments, etc. for the course(s) that the student wishes to substitute for ENVI 102.

Substituting laboratory science courses taken at Williams for ENVI 102: Students who have taken two or more laboratory science courses at Williams in BIOL, CHEM, or GEOS may in some circumstances be excused from the requirement to take ENVI 102. Requests should be submitted to the Chair or Associate Director of Environmental Studies prior to the spring of the junior year.

Planning for prerequisites on your path through the Environmental Studies major: While ENVI 101 or ENVI 102 are recommended starting points for the major, and are prerequisites for many other ENVI course offerings, please note that some of the course options for the major may have other courses as prerequisites that may not count toward the programs. For example, ENVI/ECON 213 (Intro to Environmental and Natural Resource Economics) has a prerequisite of ECON 110 (Principles of Microeconomics). We strongly suggest that you do advance planning to avoid being blocked from taking a relevant course. For example, should you want to design a cluster that emphasizes environmental economics, ENVI/ECON 387 (Economics of Climate Change) has a prerequisite of ECON 251 (Price and Allocation Theory), which in turn has a prerequisite of ECON 110. Similarlyy, should you design a cluster that emphasizes resource conservation, you should be aware that ENVI 312 (Communities and Ecosystems) has a prerequisite of ENVI/BIOL 203 (Ecology) or ENVI/BIOL 220 (Field Botany and Plant Natural History). Students interested in the program are encouraged to consult with members of the Environmental Studies Program and to contact the Environmental Studies Director or Associate Director.

Environmental issues call upon citizens, organizations, and governments to grasp complex scientific concepts, address conflicting human values, and make difficult economic, political and ethical choices.  A proper understanding of environmental issues is therefore an interdisciplinary exercise.  The three curricular options in Environmental Studies—the major in Environmental Studies and the concentrations in Environmental Studies and Maritime Studies—are designed to:

  • Effectively address complex environmental issues by integrating perspectives from the natural sciences, the social sciences, and the arts and humanities;
  • Understand ecological principles and the nature of living systems;
  • Apply scientific methods to collect environmental data and evaluate environmental quality
  • Understand the political and economic factors that inform, enable, and constrain environmental policy
  • Develop significant understanding of one or more of the essential methodological approaches required in addressing environmental challenges
  • Apply their learning in a practical setting

Read a full description of the program https://catalog.williams.edu/catalog.php?&subjinfo=evst