Environmental Studies

Course Planning in Environmental Studies

Environmental Studies majors select from a broad range of intermediate and advanced courses from many disciplines to develop a focused course of study.

Prospective majors are encouraged to begin the social science component of the major with Environment and Society (ENVS 101) during their first year, and to take Introduction to Environmental Humanities (ENVS 201) and most natural science requirements by the end of their sophomore year. Students must also take either Environmental Policy (ENVS 208) or Environmental Economics (ECON 231) to fulfill the core requirement of the major.

Majors are required to complete a “curricular pathway.”  A curricular pathway is a course of study that equips an ES major with a depth of knowledge, analytical skills, and experiences related to understanding and addressing a topic or subject area of special interest to that student. This component of the major entails several requirements to help ensure that ES majors achieve a depth of knowledge and skills in a topical area within the major.

We encourage ES majors to augment their classroom experience at Oberlin by participating in study away programs, winter term projects, and summer internships

Students considering environmental studies as a major may find these documents helpful in course planning, understanding program requirements, and more.

  • At least five full courses completed for the ES major must be taken at Oberlin; no more than three study away or transfer courses will count towards the ES major. Students planning to study away for more than a single semester must get approval from their advisor and the Program chair.
  • Courses cross-listed in two departments (e.g., ENVS 208 and POLT 208) can be taken in either department.
  • First-Year Seminar Program (FYSP) courses do not count toward the ES major.
  • Courses in which a student has earned a letter grade lower than a C- cannot be used to fulfill the requirements of the major. Courses taken with a P/NP grade can be counted towards the major as long as the student receives a P grade.
  • A maximum one full course of combined private reading (ENVS 995) and independent research or honors (ENVS 501) can be counted towards the ES major. The faculty sponsor, in consultation with the ES program director, may determine whether a given private reading can count as a NS or SS/HU elective.
  • Students who earn a 5 on the AP Environmental Science exam are exempt from taking ENVS 101 but they must take another SS/HU elective from the approved list. AP courses substituting for introductory courses in NS or Economics Departments may count towards the required or elective courses in ES (see those departments for further explanation of their AP policies).
  • If ES requirements change after the major is declared, students can choose to comply with either the requirements in place at the time of their declaration of major or the revised requirements.
  • If a student takes both ENVS 208 and ECON 231, then ENVS 208 will count towards core requirement and ECON231 will count towards the Social Science Elective.
  • Any course that fulfills the research methods elective AND is also approved as an SS/HU, or NS elective can be counted for both requirements. This double-counting only applies to courses listed on the ES Majors Checklist under ‘Research Methods Elective,’ and would allow completion of the ES major with 10 courses (instead of 11). These courses include ENGL 255 and PSYC 300 (which can be counted as an HU and SS elective respectively), and CHEM 211, ENVS 316, ENVS 340, and GEOL 235 (which can be counted as an NS elective).
  • Each ES major must take at least one of their SS/HU or NS elective courses at the 300/400 level. Ideally, this course will be related to the student’s pathway.

A student interested in a focused, but less extensive, study of the environment may pursue a minor in Environmental Studies by submitting the following:

  • a one-page rationale to the program director, and
  • a completed “Declare Initial Minor” form obtained from the registrar.

An applicant’s rationale statement should:

  1. clearly explain the goals that s/he hopes to achieve by pursuing the minor, and
  2. describe how courses taken and planned provide a cohesive focus that contributes to fulfilling these goals.

A minor must include:

  • ENVS 101 (Environment and Society), in addition to
  • a minimum of five full courses that count towards the ES major requirements as described in the “Checklist of ES Major Requirements” (excluding courses that only count for the research methods requirement). These must include:
    • two or more courses at the non-introductory level; at least two in the natural sciences, and at least two in the social sciences or humanities.
    • at least one of the natural science classes must incorporate a lab.
    • at least three of these courses must be taken at Oberlin.