Environmental justice (EJ) refers to the conditions of or right to a safe and healthy environment for everyone, regardless of race, class, gender, ability or other considerations. From this perspective, the environment is not separate from society and “out there,” but a space where people live, work, play, learn, and/or pray.  Research demonstrates that environmental and climate-related problems and hazards often disproportionately impact the health and economic opportunities of racial and ethnic minorities, Indigenous communities, workers, low-income people, women, the young and the elderly. These patterns are related to systemic forms of inequality in society, including unequal representation in environmental decision-making and leadership, racism and other forms of oppression, and the neglect of diverse value systems.

The purpose of the graduate Certificate in Environmental Justice at CU-Boulder is to provide structured training in environmental justice for CU graduate students, opportunities for graduate students and faculty to interact on environmental justice issues, and equip CU graduate students to be effective scholarly leaders and practitioners in this dynamic field. The Certificate draws upon the strengths of our world-class interdisciplinary faculty who teach and conduct research on environmental justice issues, and balance theoretical and applied approaches. In particular, the certificate guides students to engage with diverse theoretical underpinnings of environmental justice and social change; explore the real-world justice implications related to issues such as climate change, land use, waste, transportation, energy, and food systems; and consider local environmental conflicts and issues through a global lens.

Admission Requirements:

The Graduate Certificate in Environmental Justice is open to students associated with all CU-Boulder graduate degree programs and departments. Students are required to file a letter of application that expresses their interest in interdisciplinary environmental justice training. This letter should be sent to steven.vanderheiden@colorado.edu. Students must also meet with a participating faculty member for advising to design their training through the programs available electives. See the list of affiliated faculty here. Upon admission to the program, students will be added to a list through which administering faculty can monitor their progress through the program and notify them of relevant EJ-related programs, activities, and opportunities on campus and beyond.

Program Requirements:

To complete the graduate concentration in Environmental Justice, students are required to successfully complete the pillar course for the certificate, Foundations of Environmental Justice, along with three approved elective courses (listed below), for a total of 12 credit hours.

Students must submit a concentration worksheet outlining the requirements met to ENVS Program Assistant, Penny Bates at penny.bates@colorado.edu. The concentration is administered through the Environmental Studies Program at CU-Boulder. Offered annually, the pillar course, ENVS 5100: Advanced Topics in Envionmental Studies: Foundations of Environmental Justice, is cross-listed with ENVS and the instructor’s unit. Aspects of the course include: documenting environmental inequality; diverse theorizations about justice claims; historical events and discourse of environmental justice movements; social-ecological spatial dimensions of inequality, its drivers, and how it is experienced; international and local dimensions of environmental inequality; and cross-cutting perspectives across disciplines. The course offers a means to introduce students to environmental scholars across the campus community, expanding networking and mentoring opportunities, and exposing students to diverse ideas, methods, and theories.

In addition to the pillar course, students are required to complete three electives from the following collection of interdisciplinary humanities and social science graduate seminars:

  • COMM 5225 (Environmental Communication, focused on a Topic such as: Toxic Bodies)
  • ENVS 5100 (Power, Justice and Climate Change) 
  • GEOG 6402 (Critical Political Ecology)
  • GEOG 5662 (Topics in Economic Geography: Geographies of Dispossession)
  • HIST 6410 (Readings in American Environmental History)
  • PHIL 5240/ENVS 5001 (Environmental Philosophy)
  • PSCI 7024 (Environment and Political Theory)
  • SOCY/ENVS 6007 (Foundations of Environmental Sociology)
  • SOCY/ENVS 6017 (Inequality, Democracy, and Environment)

We will expand this list to include other appropriate graduate seminars from these and other departments as they become available.