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Program Overview

Major & minor: Environmental Studies

Solving environmental problems requires an integration of discipline specific knowledge with an appreciation of the linkages between the sciences, social sciences, arts, and humanities. Cornell’s Environmental Studies program includes faculty with diverse interests and skills from across the liberal arts, and a curriculum highlighted by a variety of coordinated courses and off-campus programs.

Introduction to Environmental Studies (ENV 101) introduces students to the breadth of environmental issues and represents a novel classroom model. The course is co-taught by two faculty members, one from the natural sciences and one social scientist or humanist, and is organized around a particular theme. Several afternoon discussion sessions are led by faculty members from other disciplines and are drawn from their particular area of expertise. For example, salmon fisheries of the Pacific Northwest can provide the thematic framework that introduces students to contributions that geology, biology, chemistry, philosophy, sociology, political science, and economics bring to a complex environmental issue.

Other innovative class linkages in Environmental Studies involve courses taught in parallel, where two classes share field trips and/or readings, as is done with Ornithology (BIO 254) and American Nature Writers (ENG 350). Alternatively, students may participate in sequenced classes, in which the same students move from one class to the next as a group, and which include contributions from both professors in each class. Sequenced Environmental Studies courses include Introduction to Sociology (SOC 101) and Physical Geology (GEO 111). Linking courses allows students to develop a more holistic perspective on the causes of and solutions to environmental problems.

Off-campus study

Because students spend a month taking only one course, Cornell’s One Course At A Time calendar is ideal for extensive off-campus learning. Programs at two remote sites allow faculty to offer several Environmental Studies courses during the same block. The Wilderness Term in the Boundary Waters of northern Minnesota involves Ecology (Biology), Entomology(Biology), Plant Morphology (Biology), Wilderness Politics (Politics), Environmental Ethics (Philosophy), and American Nature Writers (English). The Bahamas Term on the island of San Salvador includes Modern and Ancient Carbonate Systems of the Bahamas (Geology), Applied Anthropology (Anthropology), and Biological Problems (Biology). Other courses utilize field stations in Costa Rica, Ecuador, and New Zealand.

Capstone experience

Students are allowed the flexibility to create an ENV concentration of their own design using courses from any department or combination of departments. A capstone experience gives each major the opportunity to pursue an in-depth project to complement and complete his or her concentration. Learn more about our capstone guidelines.

Combined programs

Cornell offers Combined Degree Programs leading to the master's degree in several environmental fields in cooperation with Duke University and the University of Michigan.