Environmental Studies Major

Key Documents

Path to the Environmental Studies Major (PDF)

Course Catalog for Environmental Studies Courses (page)

Registrar’s Major/Concentration Declaration Forms (page)


Majors and concentrators (or first years and sophomores interested in the major or concentrations offered by CES) are encouraged to talk at any time with the chair or Associate Director of Environmental Studies, or any other members of CES or Maritime Studies for advice. All incoming majors and concentrators will choose a faculty advisor in the spring of their sophomore year.  We encourage all students interested in the major to meet with an advisor in Environmental Studies prior to spring pre-registration to discuss their proposed plan of study.

Advisors for 2022-23: Sarah Gardner and Nicolas Howe

Study Away

Many study away options are available to students in Environmental Studies, including the Williams-Mystic Maritime Studies Program, which is the foundation of the Maritime Studies concentration. Students considering either a semester or year away who intend to major or concentrate in Environmental Studies should consult the chair of Environmental Studies and the Dean in charge of study abroad as early as possible to discuss their options. Students may take up to two courses outside of Williams toward their major or concentration but must have advance approval in writing from the chair of Environmental Studies.

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 some other ENVI course offerings, please note that a few 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.

Students with a 5 on the AP Environmental Science exam may substitute a 200-level cross-listed Environmental Science course (with lab) for Introduction to Environmental Science (ENVI 102).

Honors in Environmental Studies

Candidates for honors in Environmental Studies will complete a thesis in their senior year. A student earns honors by successfully completing a rigorous independent project under the supervision of a member of the CES faculty. The thesis may either be a one-semester plus winter study project, or a full-year project (two semesters plus winter study). Students who are majoring in Environmental Studies, and who opt to complete a year-long thesis project, have the option of substituting the second semester of their thesis work for the required 400-level seminar. Honors will be awarded on the basis of the academic merit and originality demonstrated by the student in the completed thesis. Because many theses will require sustained field, laboratory, or archival work that is difficult to combine with conventional coursework, students are encouraged to spend the summer before senior year and/or their senior year Winter Study doing advance research.

Funds to support student research are available from endowment funds of the CES, and an open competition is held each spring to allocate summer funding resources. Some other departments also provide limited support for summer thesis research. Students and their faculty sponsors should plan the thesis with the expectation of such research in mind.

Juniors who wish to apply to pursue honors should submit a 5-page proposal to their intended advisor and the chair of Environmental Studies by the end of the week following spring break. If a student wishes to pursue thesis research advised by a faculty member not affiliated with CES, the student must also identify a co-advisor from within the program. Environmental Studies concentrators may undertake an honors thesis and submit it to both their major department and Environmental Studies; petitions for a joint honors project should be approved by the department chair and the chair of Environmental Studies by the end of the junior year. Students applying to conduct an honors thesis in Environmental Studies will be notified by the end of the spring semester whether or not their proposal has been approved.

Students doing a full-year thesis should plan on a presentation in early November to their thesis advisor, second reader, and, if applicable, co-advisor, at which the thesis writer will offer a discussion of the work completed on the thesis to date, and provide an outline of the full thesis and a timetable for completion of the remaining parts of the thesis.