The interdisciplinary Environmental Studies major is administered through the Environmental Studies Program and draws courses from 16 departments and four colleges on the CU-Boulder campus. The major teaches the integration of science, policy, and values as applied to environmental issues. Students acquire an awareness of the complexity of factors relating to human interaction with the environment. They become acutely aware that environmental problems have both human and biophysical components, and they gain knowledge of the general principles of human-environmental interaction, global habitability, environmental change, and sustainable human societies.
To complete the ENVS major, students take foundational courses in sciences, policy, ethics, economics, writing and math, as well an internship or field course, and a capstone course. Fifteen credit hours of “specialization” courses are required, allowing students to focus in one content area such as climate and energy, natural resources, or sustainable development.
See the program website at envs.colorado.edu/undergrad_program/C31/curriculum for details of the program requirements and current courses.
Course code for this program is ENVS.
Students must complete the general requirements of the College of Arts and Sciences and the required courses listed below.
Required Courses and Semester Credit Hours
Purpose: Understand the natural sciences, understand how this process generates knowledge, and be able to apply the scientific process in the results of natural and scientific research to problems and questions as they relate to what is broadly called the environment.
Biology Sequence—complete one sequence and applicable lab(s):
Chemistry or Physics Course—complete one and lab, if lab is corequisite:
Earth Science Sequence—complete one sequence and associated lab(s):
Intermediate Natural Science—complete one:
Purpose: Develop a familiarity with the drivers of human actions regarding social ecological systems.
Intermediate Social Science—complete one:
Purpose: Examine both the economic drivers and the underlying moral beliefs, personal and social ethics, principles, and theoretical commitments that might be informing environmental discourse and also driving human actions and decisions.
and complete one:
Environmental Ethics—complete one:
Purpose: Learn to systematically analyze environmental problems and critically assess the ways in which public policies may help to address these problems. Students will learn a basic knowledge of existing environmental laws and policies and the processes through which environmental policies are made and implemented.
Intermediate Policy—complete one;
Purpose: Use mathematics to understand complex issues and systems, and to help solve problems.
Choose between statistics or calculus 1, and complete one course:
Purpose: Develop an understanding of rhetorical situations in professional writing and be able to apply critical thinking skills when delivering or receiving information. Students learn to frame a problem and develop an idea from knowledge based on research.
Complete one course:
Purpose: Improve students’ ability to integrate the knowledge and skills taught in the ENVS major, and to emphasize their real world applications.
Complete one course:
Purpose: Allow students to focus on one aspect of environmental studies to develop a deeper understanding. Students choose one specialization and complete a minimum of 15 credits within it. The specializations are: 1) climate and energy; 2) natural resources and the environment; and 3) sustainable development. For lists of courses offered during a semester please consult http://envs.colorado.edu/undergrad_program/C31/Curriculum.
Climate and Energy (Option 1)
Natural Resources and the Environment (Option 2)
Sustainable Development (Option 3)
Additional Notes regarding approved ENVS specialization courses:
This capstone requirement provides an opportunity for students to pursue intellectual integration of the multiple scientific disciplines and allows students to demonstrate competence in integrative analysis and problem solving.
Complete one course:
Opportunities for interdisciplinary graduate studies and original research, leading to the MS and PhD degrees, are available with a variety of emphases, including sciences, policy, and values and theory. Particular programs of study are limited only by course offerings and faculty expertise.
Candidates for the master’s degree in environmental studies must complete at least 36 credit hours of graduate course work. Both thesis (Plan I) and non-thesis (Plan II) options are available. Plan I requires that the student write and successfully defend a thesis for 6 research credits. Students who opt for Plan II must complete a 2-credit internship as part of their program. Additional information can be found at envs.colorado.edu/grad_program/C22/Masters/.
The PhD degree is a research degree, involving the production of a major piece of original research (the dissertation). Candidates for the doctoral degree must complete at least 32 degree-hours from a list of approved ENVS core and elective courses. In addition, 30 semester hours of dissertation credit must be taken. Students are expected to form an advisory committee of five faculty members (including one from outside ENVS) soon after beginning their studies. This committee helps the student in designing a research program and in making choices concerning course work. The PhD comprehensive exam is administered by the student dissertation committee and must be taken within the first five semesters of degree work. It consists of a written research proposal on the dissertation topic, a formal presentation summarizing the student research progress, and an oral examination centered on the student research. Upon the student completion of the dissertation, a final examination is administered by the dissertation committee.
This is a dual degree program offered in conjunction with the Leeds School of Business. It requires 36 hours of graduate work in environmental studies and 43 hours of MBA course work (with 12 hours of environmental studies course work applying toward the required 55 credits for the MBA). The MBA program will be considered the student’s primary program. Additional information is available at envs.colorado.edu/grad_program/C55/ENVS-Business.
This is a dual degree program offered in conjunction with the Law School. The Law School will grant credit for acceptable performance in graduate-level environmental studies courses toward the JD degree for up to 9 (for MS students) or 12 (for PhD students) credit hours of the required 89 credits for the JD degree. Environmental studies will grant up to 9 (for MS students) or 12 (for PhD students) credit hours of acceptable performance in law courses. The JD program will be considered the student’s primary program. Additional information is available at envs.colorado.edu/grad_program/C54/ENVS-law.