Environmental Studies

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Degrees Offered: BA IBA MS PhD

Environmental studies is an interdisciplinary program designed to provide a broad yet rigorous education in environmental issues and problem­solving. ENVS trains students in the causes, scale and remediation strategies of major global environmental problems. Students acquire an awareness of the complexity of factors relating to human interactions with the environment. They learn that environmental problems have both human and biophysical components, and they gain knowledge of the general principles of human­environmental interaction, environmental change and sustainable human societies. Graduates also develop an understanding of how environmental policies are enacted and implemented.

Meeting the environmental challenges of the twenty­first century requires research, education and training that spans traditional disciplinary boundaries and emphasizes the interconnections of science and decision making. With numerous projects and research centers focused on the interconnections of science and decision making, ENVS provides considerable resources for those seeking to contribute to and participate in policy making.

Undergraduate Opportunities

Environmental studies draws on courses and expertise from over 16 departments. The program is designed to equip students with the disciplinary rigor required to gain employment in the field, while at the same time graduates learn the integration of science, policy and values as applied to environmental issues, and acquire an awareness of the complexity of factors relating to human interaction with the environment. 

The program leads to a Bachelor of Arts (BA) degree and trains students in the causes, scale and remediation strategies of the major environmental problems in the United States and world. Students take courses in sciences, policy, ethics, economics, writing and math, as well as an internship or field course and a capstone course. Students choose among three specializations: climate and energy, natural resources or sustainable development.

Graduate Studies

The interdisciplinary graduate program in environmental studies awards two degrees: the Master of Science and the Doctor of Philosophy. The program is truly interdisciplinary in that it encourages students to think critically about environmental problems through three fundamental components: science, policy and values. Developing a deep understanding of these components as applied to a particular problem or issue helps students contribute meaningfully to theory and offer practical steps to solving environmental problems.

In US News & World Report's 2013 edition of “America's Best Graduate Schools,” CU-Boulder’s environmental sciences graduate program was ranked fifth in the country. CU­-Boulder is one of the nation's leaders in environmental research; in fact, for a number of years, CU-­Boulder received more support for research in the environmental sciences than any other university in the nation. In the National Science Foundation's latest rankings (January 2010), CU­-Boulder was sixth in research and development expenditures in environmental sciences among the 480 universities ranked. Much of this research involves collaboration amongst and between disciplines and provides a productive environment for students who wish to gain interdisciplinary research experience.

Research Opportunities

Field­work opportunities and research activities are enhanced by the department’s affiliation with various research facilities, including the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES), the Institute for Arctic and Alpine Research (INSTAAR) and its Mountain Research Station, and the Institute for Behavioral Science (IBS). All of these institutes are involved in interdisciplinary research and activities related to the environment, and the department also offers interdisciplinary certificates in environment, policy and society; science, technology and policy; and hydrologic sciences.