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 Associate Director ([email protected]) or the Director of Environmental Studies ([email protected]), or any other members of CES. 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.

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 Coastal & Ocean Studies concentration. Students considering either a semester or year away who intend to major or concentrate in Environmental Studies should consult 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 Director of the Environmental Studies Program.

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

Guidelines for Honors Theses in Environmental Studies 

Academic Year 2024/25

A student pursuing either the major or concentration in Environmental Studies can pursue an honors thesis, which is a year-long project conducted over the fall semester, Winter Study, and spring semester of the senior year. Given the breadth of environmental studies, a thesis may follow a variety of formats. In general, it is a good idea for the student to use the thesis to build upon prior coursework and/or prior research, internship, or activism experience, and many students conduct thesis research during the summer before senior year. Students completing an Environmental Studies thesis may elect to opt out of the ENVI Senior Seminar.

Prospective thesis students should submit their proposals by the first week of April in their Junior year using this Google Form: Honors Theses in Environmental Studies. However, students who plan to request a CES-ENVI summer student research/internship grant should have their proposals completed by the end of spring break to ensure that applications for summer funding can be made in a timely fashion. The ENVI Advisory Committee will review all thesis proposals and will notify students of decisions by the end of April.

Prospective thesis students should identify and work with an advisor to prepare the thesis proposal. Potential advisors may be any faculty member or affiliate of the Environmental Studies Program. If the advisor is a faculty affiliate, the student should also identify an ENVI faculty member to serve as second reader. The second reader provides additional guidance throughout the thesis process and evaluates the final product along with the thesis advisor. In cases when a prospective thesis student is unable to identify a thesis advisor, they should reach out to the chair for guidance.

The 5-page thesis proposal should include:

  • A cover page with thesis title, student’s name, advisor, second reader if applicable, and a brief summary of the proposed work. The cover page should also specify whether the applicant is submitting an application for a CES summer research grant. An introduction to the topic, including a brief review of available research and an overview of the coursework and/or experiences that will contribute to the thesis.
  • A brief description of the aims/objectives of the project.
  • A discussion of the methodologies that will be employed.
  • A proposed timeline for data collection, analysis, writing chapters, and incorporating feedback.
  • A Reference Section listing the works cited in the proposal (this does not count as part of the 5-page limit for the proposal).

Faculty in the Environmental Studies program have a collection of sample proposals from prior years available on-line to guide students as they prepare their proposals. Links to completed  environmental theses are available through the Williams College Libraries & Special Collections Unbound site.

The Environmental Studies Program will endeavor to facilitate networking among students who are working on theses in the same semester so that a thesis cohort can support each other through the research and writing process.

The final thesis will be evaluated by the thesis advisor and in some cases a second reader, who will then decide to award no Honors, Honors or, in recognition of exceptional work, Highest Honors.

When submitting your thesis to Williams’ library archive, please be sure to follow the Special Collections guidelines.

Timetable for Theses in Environmental Studies 

Stage Timing During Academic Year
Submission of thesis proposal Early April
Notification of acceptance End of April
Thesis Previews Early November
Introduction, thesis outline, and future plans End of finals, Fall Semester
Meeting with second reader to discuss thesis Early January
1st complete draft to advisor and 2nd reader End of third week following spring break
Final draft to advisor Last day of classes, Spring Semester
Thesis Presentation Reading Period, Spring Semester
Final copy of thesis / Archival copy for binding End of Final Exams, Spring Semester; due to Special Collections