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 pray.  Research demonstrates that environmental and climate-related problems and hazards often disproportionately impact the health and economic opportunities of communities of color, Indigenous communities, and working-class communities. These patterns are related to systemic forms of inequality, 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 the University of Colorado Boulder ("CU Boulder") is to provide structured training in environmental justice for CU graduate students to equip them 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. This Certificate also provides CU Boulder faculty and graduate students with opportunities to interact on environmental justice research, teaching, and public engagement.

The concentration currently is administered by its Director, Prof. Phaedra C. Pezzullo, with guidance from the other members of its steering committee (Profs. Clint Carroll, David Ciplet, Ben Hale, Jill Harrison, Paul Sutter, and Steve Vanderheiden).

Admission Requirements:

The Graduate Certificate in Environmental Justice is open to students enrolled in all CU-Boulder graduate degree programs and departments, as well as to non-degree-seeking students who have already been awarded a bachelor's degree. Courses that fulfill the certificate are generally offered in-person at CU-Boulder (not in an online/remote format). Students may request to meet with a participating faculty member for advising to design their training through the program's 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 notify them of relevant EJ-related programs, activities, and opportunities on campus and beyond.

If you are interested in enrolling in the certificate, please send an email to the Director, Prof. Phaedra Pezzullo (phaedra.pezzullo@colorado.edu), in which you describe your interest in interdisciplinary environmental justice training and specify your CU student ID number.

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 (GEOG/ENVS/COMM/PSCI 7118), along with three approved elective courses (listed below), for a total of 12 credit hours. Students must also submit a concentration worksheet outlining the requirements met. 

Foundations of Environmental Justice (GEOG/ENVS/COMM/PSCI 7118) is offered annually (usually each spring semester) and rotates among various faculty. 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 introduces students to environmental scholars across the campus community and beyond, 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. At least one of the electives must be taken outside of the student's home department. To satisfactorily complete each course, students must earn a grade of B or higher.

  • COMM 5225: Environmental Communication (only topics focused on EJ, such as Toxic Bodies, qualify)
  • ENVM 5051: Humans, Environment, and Justice
  • ENVM 6100: Climate and Energy Justice (special topics course; only this course title qualifies)
  • ENVS 5100: Power, Justice and Climate Change (special topics course; only this course title qualifies)
  • ENVS 5100: Conflict Management and Collaboration for Human-Environment Systems (special topics course; only this course title qualifies)
  • ETHN 5233: Native American and Indigenous Environmental Issues
  • ETHN 6101: Indigenous Political Ecologies
  • ETHN 6103: Indigenous Thought and Theory: Foundations in Native American and Indigenous Studies
  • GEOG 5662: Geographies of Dispossession
  • GEOG 6402: Political Ecology
  • HIST 6410: Readings in American Environmental History
  • LAWS 7202: Environmental Law
  • PHIL/ENVS 5240: Environmental Philosophy
  • PSCI 7024: Environment and Political Theory (special topics course; only this course title qualifies)
  • 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.