History

An Overview

Environmental Studies at the University of Colorado, Boulder is a program born of passion. With roots in Geography, the study of environmental issues maintained an interdisciplinary approach as it evolved over the next half century into a full academic discipline granting Bachelor of Arts, Master of Science and Doctor of Philosophy degrees.

It began in 1951 with the development of Conservation Education as a major in the joint Department of Geography and Geology. The major required a set of geography, biology, journalism, and communication courses.

In 1972, the major in Conservation Education was replaced by a more heavily science-based major in Environmental Conservation. The major remained interdisciplinary, allowing students to concentrate on physical or social components within a single track. It was managed by the (now independent) Geography Department with the cooperation of departments across campus.

The number of students in this major rarely exceeded 100. But, beginning in the late 1980’s, the size of the major grew quickly from 120 in 1987-88 to 514 in 1993-94. The major was revamped into a separate program in Environmental Studies in 1993, administered through the Office of Interdisciplinary Studies. By 1995-96, 537 students majored in environmental studies.

In 1997-98, administration of the major moved to the Environmental Studies program, where it remains. In 2001-2002, graduate degrees in environmental studies were approved. The first graduate class entered a year later. In 2004, the first Master of Science in Environmental Studies was awarded and the first Ph.D. was granted in 2006. 

Currently, the Environmental Studies Program has approximately 800 undergraduate and 55 graduate students.