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Environmental Studies Major:
Class of 2017 and Beyond

environmental studies program

Undergraduate Program Description

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 (described elsewhere in this catalog) 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.

Applying for the Environmental Studies Major

Students are accepted into the Environmental Studies major by application only. Admission to the major is by competitive application at the end of freshman year. Approximately 15 students will be accepted into the major each year, after they have completed one year of study at Boston College. Admission is determined by the Steering Committee of the Environmental Studies Program, which includes faculty drawn from many departments and an associate dean from the 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.

Major Requirements

The ES major consists of a minimum of 43 credits, equivalent to at least 14 full-semester courses, as detailed below. The ES major is available to students in the class of 2017 and later years. ES students may choose more than one major, but at least 27 credits for the ES major must not be used to fulfill requirements for another major or minor (i.e., 16 credits can be shared).ES major students can choose an additional major, but may count no more than one course toward both majors, or one course toward a major and minor.

A. Environmental Studies introductory seminar ENVS1100 (1 credit)

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

B. 8 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 EESC1501 for EESC2205, and EESC1157 for EESC2206.

C. Two foundation courses in environmental studies (6 credits; one must be at the 2000 level or higher):
  • ECON2277 Environmental Economics and Policy
  • ECON2278 Environmental Economics
  • HIST2503/SOCY1025 People and Nature
  • MGMT2145 Environmental Management
  • SOCY1031 Society and Environmental Transformations
  • SOCY2200 Statistics (or a different statistics course)
  • SOCY1501 Global Implications of Climate Change (available to freshmen only)
  • ENVS/UNAS2256 Environmental Law and Policy
  • PHIL5534 Environmental Ethics

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 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.

  • HIST2503/SOCY1025 People and Nature (counts toward requirement C)
  • 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
  • Two of:
    • EESC2297 Environmental Hydrology
    • EESC3312 River Restoration and Management
    • EESC4400 Geomorphology and Landscape Change
    • EESC4457 Watershed Science
    • EESC5535 Coastal Processes
    • BIOL4420 Current Topics in Ecology
  • Two of:
    • HIST2505 Feast or Famine; a History of Food and the Environment
    • HIST4254 Century of Famine
    • HIST4042 China Regionalized: Environment, History and Culture
    • INTL2261 Indigenous Peoples and Natural Resources
    • 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
    • EESC2205 Environmental Systems: Climate Change (in addition to the B requirement above)
  • One of: (counts toward requirement C)
    • SOCY1031 Society and Environmental Transformations
    • HIST2503/SOCY1025 People and Nature
    • SOCY1501 Global Implications of Climate Change (for freshmen only)
  • Two of:
    • EESC3312 River Restoration and Management
    • EESC3318 Alternative Energy: Why Aren’t We There Yet?
    • EESC4400 Geomorphology and Landscape Change
    • EESC4440 Global Biogeochemical Cycles
    • EESC4457 Watershed Science
    • EESC4462 Paleoclimate I
    • EESC4463 Paleoclimate II
    • EESC5535 Coastal Processes
  • Three of:
    • INTL2260 International Environmental Science and Policy
    • POLI2531 Energy Politics in U.S., Comparative and Global Perspective
    • SOCY5562 Environmental Sociology I


  • Two of:
    • HIST1031 Europe and the World: An Environmental History I
    • HIST1032 Europe and the World: An Environmental History II
    • HIST2503/SOCY1025 People and Nature (in addition to the C requirement above)
    • HIST2505Feast or Famine; a History of Food and the Environment
    • several other environmental history courses TBA
  • Four of:
    • HIST4042 China Regionalized: environment, history, and culture 
    • HIST4254 Century of Famine
    • several other environmental history courses TBA

Political Science

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


  • SOCY1001 Introductory Sociology
  • SOCY1025 People and Nature or SOCY1031 Society and Environmental Transformations (counts toward requirement C)
  • SOCY2200 Statistics (in addition to the C requirement above)
  • SOCY2210 Research Methods
  • Three of:
    • SOCY3349 Environmental Studies: Selected Topics
    • SOCY3375 American Economic Crisis and Social Change
    • SOCY5560 Consumption and Sustainability
    • SOCY5562 Environmental Sociology I
    • 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 ES, 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.

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.

Information for Study Abroad

ES 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 Boston College. ES 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 ES Program Director Noah Snyder, see the program website at, or stop by the program office in Devlin 213.


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