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Undergraduate Program

environmental studies

Learning Outcomes

The Environmental Studies Program offers an interdisciplinary curriculum to students interested in perspectives on sustainability from faculty and courses across the university. Both a major and a minor are available to qualified students. The goals of the major are to provide students with:

  • the knowledge and perspective to cultivate rewarding lives as responsible citizens of the planet;
  • a deep understanding of the scientific, political, and cultural aspects of the world's environmental challenges;
  • the tools and creativity necessary to envision and implement paths to sustainable solutions; and
  • a solid background for environmentally related graduate programs and/or careers in business, education, law, policy, planning, government, or research.

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Applying for the Environmental Studies Major

Students are admitted into the Environmental Studies major by application only. Admission to the major is by competitive application at the end of the freshman year. Acceptance is determined by the Steering Committee of the Environmental Studies Program, which includes faculty drawn from many departments and an associate dean from the Morrissey College of Arts and Sciences. Criteria for admission include academic achievement and a personal statement.

The deadline for submitting applications is early May, at the end of your first year. The application form may be found here.

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Major Requirements

The ENVS major consists of a minimum of 43 credits, equivalent to at least 14 full-semester courses, as detailed below. ES students may choose more than one major, but at least 27 credits for the ENVS major must not be used to fulfill requirements for another major or minor (i.e., 16 credits can be shared). Note that all Boston College majors require at least 27 unique credits, so the number of credits that can be shared will be fewer for majors that require fewer courses, such as most departmental majors (i.e. if a major requres 30 credits, only 3 can be shared). 

A. Environmental Studies introductory seminar ENVS1100 (1 credit)

This seminar is offered in the fall semester for the new cohort of ENVS majors (sophomores). It involves readings of classics texts in environmental studies, and is similar in structure to Cornerstone courses.

B. Eight credits of Environmental Systems courses: EESC2201 Environmental Systems: The Human Footprint plus three of the following courses (and labs EESC2211–2218):
  • EESC2202 Environmental Systems: Ecosystems,
  • EESC2203 Environmental Systems: Water Resources,
  • EESC2204 Environmental Systems: The Critical Zone,
  • EESC2205 Environmental Systems: Climate Change,
  • EESC2206 Environmental Systems: Oceans,
  • EESC2207 Environmental Systems: Earthquakes, or
  • EESC2208 Environmental Systems: Quantitative Methods

These are a series of two-credit half-semester courses that introduce students to the basic concepts of environmental science from a variety of perspectives and professors, with the specific goal of providing students with a foundation for further interdisciplinary study of environmental issues. Students can take one or more of these courses in any given semester. Approved substitutions include: EESC1167 for EESC2201, EESC1170 for EESC2203, EESC1174 or EESC1505 for EESC2205, and EESC1157 for EESC2206.

C. Two foundation courses in environmental studies (6 credits; one must be at the 2000 level or higher):
  • ECON 2277 Environmental Economics and Policy or ECON 2278 Environmental Economics
  • HIST 2406 This Land is Your Land: U.S. Environmental History
  • HIST 4703 Environmental Histories of Water
  • INTL 2260 International Environmental Science and Policy
  • SOCY 1031 Society and Environmental Transformations
  • SOCY 2200 Statistics (or a different statistics course)
  • SOCY 5563 Environmental Sociology I
  • ENVS/UNAS 2256 Environmental Law and Policy
  • PHIL 5534 Environmental Ethics
  • Core Courses Open Only to First Year Students

                PHIL 1501 Science and Ethics of Climate Change

                SOCY 1501 Global Implications of Climate Change

                SOCY 1509 Planet in Peril: History and Future of Human Impacts

D. A concentration in a theme or discipline (6 courses, 18 or more credits)

Available themes include Food and Water Sustainability and Climate Change and Societal Adaptation. Available disciplines include Economics, History, Political Science, and Sociology.


Food and Water Sustainability

This theme focuses on the interrelated challenges of providing water and food for the growing human population on a finite planet with unequal access to resources. Students will gain a firm foundation in hydrology and ecology as well as related historical and cultural perspectives.

  • Two Fundamentals
    • EESC3310 Agroecology
    • ENVS3315 Sustainable Agriculture
  • One of
    • EESC1170 Rivers and the Environment
    • EESC2203 Environmental Systems: Water Resources (in addition to the B requirement above)
    • BIOL2010 Ecology and Evolution
  • One of:
    • EESC2297 Environmental Hydrology
    • EESC4400 Geomorphology and Landscape Change
    • EESC4457 Watershed Science
    • EESC5535 Coastal Processes
  • Two of:
    • HIST2505 Feast or Famine; a History of Food and the Environment
    • ENVS3355 Sustainable Cities
    • ENVS4407/SOCY 4407 Easy Being Green?
    • HIST2044 A Material and Cultural History of Food in China
    • HIST4254 Century of Famine
    • HIST4701 Ecological History of the Atlantic World
    • HIST4703 Environmental Histories of Water
    • PHIL5534 Environmental Ethics (in addition to the C requirement above)
    • SOCY5560 Consumption and Sustainability
    • THEO2231 The Bible and Ecology
    • THEO5429 Theology and Ecology

Climate Change and Societal Adaptation

This theme gives students a strong foundation in the science, policy and related challenges of global climate change, as societies learn to adapt to changes in sea level, biodiversity, and the availability of energy and water.

  • One of:
    • EESC1174 Climate Change and Society
    • EESC1501 Global Implications of Climate Change (for freshmen only)
    • EESC1505 Science and Ethics of Climate Change (for freshmen only)
    • EESC2205 Environmental Systems: Climate Change (in addition to the B requirement above)
  • One of: (counts toward requirement C)
    • PHIL1501 Science and Ethics of Climate Change (for freshman only)
    • SOCY1031 Society and Environmental Transformations
    • HIST2503/SOCY1025 People and Nature
    • SOCY1501 Global Implications of Climate Change (for freshmen only)
    • SOCY1509 Planet in Peril (for freshmen only)
  • Two of:
    • EESC4400 Geomorphology and Landscape Change
    • EESC4440 Global Biogeochemical Cycles
    • EESC4457 Watershed Science
    • EESC4462 Paleoclimate Dynamics
    • EESC4463 Paleoclimate Proxies
    • EESC5535 Coastal Processes
    • EESC5599 Climate Change Debates
  • Three of:
    • ECON3391 Economics of Energy and the Environment
    • ENVS3340 Alternative Energy
    • ENVS3355 Sustainable Cities
    • INTL2260 International Environmental Science and Policy (in addition to requirement C)
    • PHIL5515 How to Save the World: Ethics of Climate Change
    • POLI2531 Energy Politics in U.S., Comparative and Global Perspective
    • SOCY5562 Environmental Sociology I


  • Six of Fundamentals
    • ECON1131 Principles of Economics I/Microeconomics
    • ECON1132 Principles of Economics II/Macroeconomics
    • ECON2201 Microeconomic Theory
    • ECON1151 Statistics, or a different statistics course (can also count toward requirement C)
    • ECON2228 Econometrics
    • ECON2277 Environmental Economics and Policy or ECON2278 Environmental Economics (can also count toward requirement C)
  • Two of:
    • ECON3386 Public Policy Analysis
    • ECON3391 Economics of Energy and the Environment
    • ECON3392 Quantitative Methods in Environmental Economics


  • Two of:
    • HIST1505 Planet in Peril (for freshmen only): (In addition to the C requirement above)
    • HIST1511 Science and Technology in American Society (for freshmen only)
    • HIST1704 The Worlds of Moby-Dick
    • HIST1708 Nature on Exhibit: From Sea Monsters to Sea World
    • HIST2044 Chinese Environmental History
    • HIST2045 A Material and Cultural History of Food in China
    • HIST2406 This Land is Your Land: U.S. Environmental History (in addition to
    • the C requirement above)
    • HIST2411 Civil War and Reconstruction
    • HIST2431 Leeches to Lasers: Medicine and Health in the U.S.
    • HIST2505 Feast or Famine, a History of Food and the Environment
    • several other environmental history courses TBA
  • Four of:
    • HIST4043 Environment, Economy, and Politics in Medieval China
    • HIST4090 Modern South Asia
    • HIST4222 Animals
    • HIST4254 Century of Famine: 19th Century Social Crisis
    • HIST4423 The Plains Indians
    • HIST4701 Ecological History of the Atlantic World
    • HIST4703 Environmental Histories of Water (in addition to the C requirement
    • above)
    • HIST4875 New England: Winthrop to Walden
    • HIST4891 Science and Religion in American History

Political Science

  • One of Fundamentals:
    • POLI1042 Introduction to Modern Politics
    • POLI1061 Introduction to American Politics
    • POLI1091 Introduction to Comparative Politics
  • Two of American politics: 
    • POLI2301 Policy and Politics in the U.S.
    • One of POLI2305, POLI2309, POLI2317, POLI2322, POLI2334
  • One of Comparative politics:
    • POLI2415
    • POLI2422
    • POLI2460
  • Two of International politics: 
    • POLI2531 Energy Politics in U.S., Comparative and Global Perspective
    • One of POLI3521, POLI2522 or POLI2525


  • SOCY1001 Introductory Sociology
  • Four of Fundamentals:
    • SOCY5562 Environmental Sociology I (counts towards requirement C)
    • SOCY1001 Introductory Sociology
    • SOCY2200 Statistics (in addition to the C requirement above)
    • SOCY2210 Research Methods
  • Three of:
    • SOCY1509 Planet in Peril (in addition to requirement C)
    • SOCY1031 Society and Environmental Transformation
    • SOCY3349 Environmental Studies: Selected Topics
    • SOCY3375 American Economic Crisis and Social Change
    • SOCY5560 Consumption and Sustainability
    • SOCY5562 Environmental Sociology I (in addition to requirement C)
    • SOCY5572 Sociology of Science and Technology
E. At least 6 credits (two or more courses) of environmental studies electives

At least 3 credits must be from courses numbered 3000 and above. Please see our current elective offerings, which include all Earth and Environmental Sciences courses, as well as more than 30 other options.

F. Senior research seminar (ENVS4941–ENVS4942; 4 credits; 2 credits per semester for both semesters)

The senior seminar involves a combination of discussions of key readings in ENVS, guest speakers, team research projects focused on solving real environmental problems, and engagement with communities beyond the BC campus. Alternatively, students can request to fulfill this requirement via a two-semester (6 credits) senior thesis.

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Information for First Year Students

First-year students who are considering applying to become Environmental Studies majors should consider taking the following courses:

  • Environmental Systems: The Human Footprint (EESC2201 and lab EESC2211), as well as one or more of other the Environmental Systems courses (EESC2202–EESC2208 and labs EESC2212–EESC2218).
  • One or more of the foundation courses (requirement C above), several of which also fulfill University Core requirements.

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Information for Study Abroad

ENVS majors are encouraged students to take advantage of study abroad opportunities. Studying outside of the U.S. provides a global perspective on environmental and sustainability issues, and educational opportunities not available at BC. ENVS students are allowed four credits per semester abroad to count toward the major (or minor) requirements, or eight credits in unusual circumstances.

For further information contact ENVS Program Director Tara Pisani-Gareau, see the program website at, or stop by the program office in Devlin 213.

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