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Environmental Studies


Due to the broad academic nature of the Environmental Studies Program, all majors (except those with a second major) must design a 16-credit concentration of related courses to better focus their area of study. Students identify a scholarly area for which they have a keen interest, or in which they desire advanced professional or academic preparation. Their concentration is designed to foster a deep grasp of concepts and skills in preparation for a related senior thesis. A concentration may take a natural science, social science, humanities, or transdisciplinary focus; in all cases it adopts the situated approach to high-quality environmental scholarship students learn via our Environmental Studies core courses.  

Proposing a Concentration
  1. The concentration is proposed by prospective Environmental Studies majors during ENVS 220, which most students take fall semester of their sophomore year. ENVS 220 includes a set of activities designed to help students successfully propose a concentration during this early stage in their student career.
  2. The proposed concentration is entered into a form on our Situating the Global Environment (SGE) website. Instructions for completing the form are available on a help page on the SGE site, as are specific criteria by which the concentration will be assessed. Students with a second major do not propose a concentration, but fill out a portion of this form as well.
  3. Students receive feedback on their draft concentrations from the ENVS 220 instructor and ENVS Program steering committee. They are then encouraged to revise their proposed concentrations accordingly.
  4. Final steering committee approval of a student’s concentration is required by the end of the semester in which it is proposed in order for the student to proceed with the Environmental Studies major. If a concentration is not approved, the student is encouraged to minor in ENVS, or add a second major (which eliminates the concentration requirement).
  5. When the concentration is approved, the ENVS Program conveys related courses to the Registrars Office, and the student is then officially declared as an ENVS major. (Note: ENVS majors with a second major complete only a portion of the concentration form, as noted on the help page. Their ENVS major is then conveyed to the Registrar’s Office.)
Important Guidelines
  1. Scale: An ENVS concentration lies midway between a broad environmental topic (what we call a situated theme) and the focused research projects students complete for a course or their thesis. The concentration gives clarity to the student’s personal trajectory as an ENVS major, thus should be neither too general nor too restrictive. 
    • Concentrations that are too general are often built on vague notions like “society,” “environment,” “sustainability,” etc., and thus fail to acknowledge the range of complexity or variation in the phenomena of interest.
    • Concentrations that are too restrictive often ignore their larger relevance beyond the immediate area of focus, and thus miss the opportunity to scale up and down in analyzing environmental issues—a major feature of our situated approach. 
  2. Situatedness: Students learn how to adopt a situated approach to environmental issues as part of the ENVS major. The concentration must demonstrate this situated approach in a manner appropriate to the student’s interest. More information on how to situate an environmental topic is found on the SGE website.
  3. Questions: In addition to the situated approach, another key emphasis of our ENVS Program is on asking appropriate questions, and each concentration is built on a list of focus questions. As detailed here, students learn a taxonomy of questions (descriptive, explanatory, evaluative, and instrumental) typically applied to understand environmental issues. Based on this list, the concentration must be built on lower-order (descriptive and explanatory) questions, though higher-order (evaluative and instrumental) questions derived from these lower-order questions may be appropriate.
  4. Concentration Courses: Concentration courses must adhere to the following guidelines:
    • No courses can count toward other ENVS major (e.g., breadth course) requirements.
    • Students take a minimum of 16 credits of concentration courses, of which at least 8 credits (with limited exceptions on a case-by-case basis) must be 300-level courses or above.
    • 100-level courses generally cannot be applied toward a concentration, though exceptions can be made for rigorous 100-level courses, especially in the natural sciences
    • Courses may all be in one area or a variety of areas, but they must converge on the proposed concentration and focus questions.
    • Students may list one or two additional courses for approval in case plans change or a course is unavailable.
    • Students may include an ENVS 244 practicum (internship) and/or ENVS 499 independent study as part of the concentration, though they require separate approval.
    • Up to 8 credits of non-Lewis & Clark courses may be included, subject to institutional and ENVS approval.
  5. A&H Course: ENVS majors take two four-credit arts & humanities breadth courses. There are two that are already approved for this requirement: Philosophy 215 (Philosophy and the Environment) and History 261 (Global Environmental History); at least one of these courses must be taken. If students want to propose a second four-credit course to replace one of the approved courses above, they will do so on the concentration form:
    • Make sure that the course is offered by an Arts or Humanities program.
    • The course must relate to the ENVS major and/or the proposed concentration.
Sample Concentrations
Here are some sample concentrations from students in recent years, with links to their senior thesis documents and poster summaries (and in some cases, thesis research projects) based on these concentrations. The Moodle-based concentrations below utilize a different form and followed slightly different guidelines than the current SGE-based concentrations, but they may suggest possibilities. (Note that Lewis & Clark login is required to view the Moodle concentration database).