Environmental Studies

Our society faces numerous environmental challenges—from global warming to species extinction, water contamination to soil erosion. Confronting these challenges to building sustainable communities requires attending to the interconnected nature of complex systems and that bridge traditional academic fields such as geology, geography, anthropology, public administration, political science, economics, philosophy, and ecology. The Environmental Studies Program at Binghamton University fosters transdisciplinary perspectives on interactions between human and natural systems with a view to sustaining communities so that they meet the needs of the present without sacrificing the needs of the future. 

Our approach to environmental studies embraces the idea that effective environmental policy is based on a solid understanding of science and that scientists working on environmental problems must understand the policy, planning and economic framework in which their science will be applied. The major in environmental studies provides undergraduates with an interdisciplinary program in which to study these interrelationships of humans with their environment and the practical problems resulting from these relationships. In addition to taking the core courses required of all Environmental Studies majors, a student majoring in Environmental Studies completes a specialization which develops a cross-disciplinary perspective, with a problem-oriented focus. Within the framework of the Environmental Studies major, a student may obtain the interdisciplinary background prerequisite for such professional fields as planning, policy analysis, environmental law, ecosystem management, environmental education and environmental analysis, or graduate programs in these fields, as well as in environmental geology and environmental chemistry.

Because of the diverse background required of students majoring in Environmental Studies, prospective majors must plan their academic program carefully. The Environmental Studies faculty who oversee the program, recommend that majors complete the core requirements (see below) for the Environmental Studies major as early as possible. At the time students declare their intention to major in Environmental Studies they choose a specialization and should, in consultation with their program advisor, decide on the courses making up their specialization and plan their academic program.

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Harpur College Requirements

Harpur College students must complete the following requirements in addition to those listed for the major:

  • 126 credits
  • 90 liberal arts and sciences credits
  • Minimum of 44 upper-level credits
  • Completion of the Harpur College writing requirement (4 to 5 courses as described in the All-College Writing section of the Harpur College Undergraduate Information section of the Bulletin. Maximum of one C/J course and 2 W courses may be transferred).
  • Minimum of 44 credits in residence in Harpur College
  • 2.0 or higher GPA

Harpur College requirements are described in detail in the Requirements for Graduation section of the Harpur College Undergraduate Information section of the Bulletin.

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Environmental Studies Major

The major in environmental studies leads to either a BA or BS degree. There are three parts to each degree program: 1) a set of five core courses; 2) two problem-oriented courses; and 3) a specialization.

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BA Degree Program

Courses required for the BA degree include:

  • Five core courses:
    • ENVI 101 and 201
    • CHEM 101, 107 or 111 (with 107 or 111 required for specializations in ecosystems, environmental chemistry, or Earth sciences/natural resources)
    • ECON 160
    • One of ENVI/PHIL 149 or ENVI/GEOG 239 or ENVI 230
  • Two problem-oriented courses, usually taken in the senior year, selected from ENVI 397, 413, 415, 495 (or 491), 498, and 499;
  • a specialization made up of eight courses. Approved specializations include:
    • ecosystems
    • environmental chemistry
    • Earth sciences and natural resources
    • public policy, administration and law
    • environmental planning
    • environmental economics
    • Students may also design their own specialization through consultation with their advisor.
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BS Degree Program

Students choosing one of the science specializations in the ES major also have the choice of completing a BA or a BS degree. Courses required for the BS degree include:

  • Five core courses:
    • ENVI 101 and 201
    • CHEM 107 or 111
    • ECON 160
    • Either ENVI/PHIL 149 or ENVI/GEOG 239 or ENVI 230
  • Two problem-oriented courses, usually taken in the senior year, selected from ENVI 397, 413, 415, 495 (or 491), 498, and 499;
  • a specialization made up of 11 courses. Approved specializations include:
    • ecosystems
    • Earth science and natural resources
    • environmental chemistry

A list of the specific course requirements for each specialization is available in the Geological Sciences and Environmental Studies Department office and on the Environmental Studies website. Courses approved for environmental studies specializations are drawn from the offerings of anthropology, biological sciences, chemistry, economics, geography, geological sciences, political science and others.

Except for internships and teaching practica, courses taken Pass/Fail may not be counted toward the major. A grade of D is not considered satisfactory for courses applied to the major and thus will not count.

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Minor in Environmental Studies

The six-course minor in environmental studies allows a student to explore the interdisciplinary structure of the environmental studies curriculum without completing the full major. Requirements are:

  • ENVI 101 and ENVI 201
  • One of ENVI/PHIL 149 or ENVI/GEOG 239 or ENVI 230
  • Two upper-division ENVI courses
  • Either ENVI 413 or ENVI 415
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Honors Program in Environmental Studies

Graduation with honors in environmental studies is granted for superior independent work, usually in the form of an honors thesis. To qualify, students must have demonstrated excellence in coursework and must receive the approval of a faculty member to register for ENVI 498 and ENVI 499. Normally, honors students enroll in ENVI 498 in their next-to-last semester and in ENVI 499 in their last semester, during which they complete the thesis. The student’s work must be submitted to a thesis committee consisting of the supervising professor and at least one other faculty member associated with the environmental studies program.