May 30, 2024  
Undergraduate Catalog 2015-16 
Undergraduate Catalog 2015-16 [ARCHIVED CATALOG]

Environmental and Sustainability Studies Major (32 hours)

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Steven Kohler, Director
Main Office: 3900 Wood Hall
Telephone: (269) 387-2716
Fax: (269) 387-2272

Harold Glasser
Johnson Haas
Lynne Heasley
Sarah Hill
Denise Keele
Carla Koretsky
Daniel Macfarlane
Lei Meng
Brian Petersen
Maarten Vonhof

One of the goals of our University’s Mission Statement is “to advance responsible environmental stewardship;” in that same vein, the College of Arts and Sciences in its Strategic Plan, seeks to raise “awareness about the … environmental and international contexts of knowledge …” and has as one of its goals interdisciplinary education  on all aspects of environmental problems. Accordingly, our Program, as we conceive it, has two major duties: One, fostering environmental awareness and scientific literacy for the general student; Two, careful interdisciplinary training of majors and minors to understand environmental complexity and health, enabling them to be creative and able problem solvers.

The Program will also serve the Kalamazoo community and greater Southwestern Michigan as the center for environmental action and for the sharing of environmental knowledge; we see ourselves as both participating in and leading the larger community toward environmental knowledge and environmental repair.

For our students, the results of this combination of abstract and experiential learning, along with community activism, will be periodically assessed by both subjective and objective measurements, but always central to any such assessment will be the quality of the professional and personal lives our students lead after they have graduated from WMU.  



Given the interdisciplinary nature of the program, it is very important that students work regularly with program advisors. Information about career choices, internships, summer jobs, graduate programs, and second majors is also available from our office.


Academic Standards

Students in all options of the Environmental and Sustainability Studies Program must earn at least a grade of “C” in all courses counted for their major/minor.


Baccalaureate Writing Requirement

Students who have chosen an Environmental and Sustainability Studies major will satisfy the Baccalaureate Writing Requirement by successfully completing ENVS 3200 Major Environmental Writings, or ENVS 4150 Environmental Laws.


Liberal Education/General Education Requirements

Students in any curriculum who successfully complete the Environmental and Sustainability Studies program will be deemed to have satisfied the criteria for Areas V, VI, and VII of the new General Education requirements (limited to 10 hours). Those students enrolled in the Arts and Sciences LEC curriculum will be deemed to have also satisfied the second required course from the LEC core in Areas V and VI.


Second Major

Because the Program is broadly interdisciplinary, Environmental and Sustainability Studies (ENVS) is called a coordinate major; thus, students who choose ENVS are required to take a second major, chosen from any college in the University, to provide depth in a particular discipline.

Students choosing their disciplinary major from within the College of Arts and Sciences have the option, upon graduation, to select either of their two majors as their “degree” major. If Environmental and Sustainability Studies is selected, students will graduate with a Bachelor of Arts degree if their second major is in the Humanities or Social Sciences; they will graduate with a Bachelor of Science degree if that major is in the Sciences. Students choosing their disciplinary major as first degree will graduate accordingly.

Those students whose disciplinary major is in another college must graduate with their ENVS major as their second major.

In addition to satisfying all Environmental and Sustainability Studies Program requirements, students selecting Environmental and Sustainability Studies as their first major must satisfy the College of Arts and Sciences curriculum requirements as well as all University requirements. Those selecting ENVS as their second major must satisfy all requirements as designated by the College of the first major, as well as all University degree requirements.

Environmental and Sustainability Studies Major (32 hours minimum)

The Environmental and Sustainability Studies core curriculum embraces the interdisciplinary nature of environmental issues through scientific, social, and humanistic approaches to undergraduate scholarship. The curriculum envisages core themes, or Domains, that are essential to modern environmental education: the physical and biological sciences; the history of human interactions with the non-human world; the social and cultural dimensions of environmental problems; environmental thought as reflected in literature, ethics and philosophy; policy and decision-making; and practical experience.

A student may declare a major in Environmental and Sustainability Studies when the student has done the following:

  1. Completed 30  hours of college work, at least 15 hours of which are at Western Michigan University.
  2. Achieved an overall GPA of 2.50 or above.
  3. Completed the Entry Option and the Physical Science Domain with a grade of “C” or better in each.

After completing these requirements, students must take at least one course from each of the remaining domains. All domains have a prerequisite of one of the courses in the Entry Option.

At the advanced level, undergraduates will develop interdisciplinary competency by taking advanced courses outside the ENVS core. Students will also take a senior seminar capstone course. The senior seminar will bring together ENVS undergraduates from diverse disciplinary majors, who will work in teams outside the classroom to address complex environmental problems in both theoretical and experiential modes.

Note: Because of the complexity of this course of study, students are encouraged to speak regularly with an advisor.

Entry Options (4 hours)

Any of these four courses serves as the prerequisite for all subsequent Domains.

Physical Science Domain (3 hours)

Biological Science Domain (4 hours)

Historical Domain (3 hours)

Cultural and Societal Domain (3 hours)

Environmental Thought Domain (3 hours)

Policy Domain (4 hours)

Interdisciplinary Competency (6 hours) (two courses)

Students must demonstrate competency in advanced fields of knowledge and practice outside the ENVS core. Students must choose, in consultation with a Program advisor, two approved courses emphasizing instruction in and application of advanced research methods, within a discipline of their choosing. A minimum of two separate courses must be taken to satisfy the competency requirement, with a minimum total of six hours accumulated credit for both courses. No more than one course of the two may be taken in the same area as the student’s disciplinary major.

Examples of suitable courses that will fulfill the Competency requirement within the following disciplines are shown below. Other disciplines and their courses will be added to this list as they are deemed appropriate by the ENVS faculty.

Natural Sciences Area

Environmental Studies


Social Sciences Area



Political Science

Humanities Area

Environmental Studies


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