Environmental And Sustainability Studies

ENVS – Environmental Studies course descriptions


Anya Butt (director), Russ Benedict, Ashley Garr, Lee Macomber, Tuan Nguyen, Paul Weihe, Jim Zaffiro


Statement of philosophy 

Environmental studies examines the relationship of science, society and nature in a world with a focus on sustainability. Properly addressing environmental problems requires the ability to analyze complex systems and explore solutions within the socio-cultural, economic and political decision-making process. This major provides students with a strong grounding in the three legs of sustainability: an understanding of economics, politics, and the relevant scientific aspects for constructively solving problems through an interdisciplinary approach.

Students shape their major by selecting a focus either on a more science oriented or a more socio-political oriented major and supplement it with diverse electives. A focus on the socio-economic and political aspects in environmental studies enables students to help properly define sustainable resource use through an understanding of the science and environmental relationships within the debates at the global, national and local levels. A focus on the science involved in environmental issues enables students to gain a comprehensive ability to address these issues within an applied context. Course work is enriched by supervised independent research, career-focused internships, experiential and service-learning opportunities. Central’s extensive network of internship opportunities provide students with invaluable hands-on experience. Strongly recommended is at least one semester of study abroad.

The Environmental Studies major is one component of Central’s commitment to becoming a leader in sustainability education, along with the Global Sustainability program.  Both programs focus on addressing global issues that arise due to the scarcity of resources on our earth and efforts by humanity to balance our needs with those of future generations. Due to the commonalities in courses and focus between the Environmental Studies program and the Global Sustainability minor, students are not allowed to declare major/minors simultaneously in these programs.

Career opportunities in environmental science are varied and increasing. Due to their strong backgrounds in the sciences, the social sciences and GIS, environmental studies and sustainability graduates have career opportunities in sustainability focused careers, as well as a diverse variety of positions in environmental protection and policy. This includes companies looking for entry level individuals with strong analytical skills for water, air, biological or soil analyses, or federal, local or state agencies focused on habitat monitoring, restoration, and delineation; as well as careers focused on environmental education and technical writing about environmental issues.


Major Communication Skills

It essential for majors to be able to effectively speak, read, write and think critically within the context of their ENVS course work. For this reason, many required courses and electives include assignments and activities that evaluate students’ communication skills proficiency. Evaluation of students’ communication skills formally occurs in ENVS 380 Environmental Studies Seminar and ENVS 480 Environmental Studies Senior Seminar. Two requirements of these common capstone course are a major paper and an oral public presentation.


Major/Minor restrictions

Students planning to major or minor in Environmental Studies may not minor in Global Sustainability.

Environmental and Sustainability Studies Major Requirements (52- 56 credits) 

  1. Complete all of the following:
    BIOL 130 Diversity of Life with Lab (4)
    ECON 112 Principles of Microeconomics (3)
    ENVS 120 Introduction to Environmental Science with Lab (4)
    ENVS 380 Environmental Studies Seminar (3)
    ENVS 480 Environmental Studies Senior Seminar (1)
    GEOG 320 Principles of GIS with Lab (3)
  2. Complete one of the following:
    GEOG 325 Planning for Sustainable Communities (4)
    POLS 242  Global Sustainability (4)
  3. Complete one of the following socio- economic courses:
    ECON 321 Environmental Economics (3)
    ECON 329 Economic Development (3)
    GEOG 225 Geography of Sub-Saharan Africa (3)
    POLS 241 International Political Economy (4)
    SOC 335 Globalization & Development (4)
  4. Complete one of the following:
    COSC 110 Introduction to Computer Science (3)
    BIOL 210 Epidemiology (3)
    MATH 215 Applied Statistics (4)
    POLS 250 Methods of Political Research (4)
    *MATH 105 may be substituted for MATH 215, but MATH 215 is the recommended statistics course for the major
  5. Complete either Block A or Block B:
    Block A:
    CHEM 107 Introduction to Environmental Chemistry (3)
    ECON 113 Principles of Macroeconomics (3)
    GEOG 237 Physical Geography: Weather and Climate with Lab (4)
    One course from:
    POLS 233 American Environmental Politics and Policy (4)
    HIST 237 American Environmental History (4)
    Block B:
    BIOL 131 Introduction to Cells with Lab (4)
    BIOL 229 Ecology and Evolution with Lab (4)
    CHEM 111 General Chemistry with Lab (4)
    CHEM 241 Analytical Chemistry with Lab (4)
  6. Complete at least 10 s.h. of elective credit from the following (with at least 6 s.h. at the 200-level or above)
    ANTH 260 Medical Anthropology (4)
    BEHS 285 Not-for-Profit Seminar (1)
    BEHS 397 Internship in Not-for-Profit Management (3)
    BIOL 310 Tropical Ecology (1-4)
    BIOL 324 Field Botany with Lab (4)
    BIOL 342 Mammalogy with Lab (4)
    BIOL 343 Ornithology with Lab (4)
    BIOL 345 Limnology with Lab (4)
    BIOL 350 Conservation Biology and Ecology of Iowa (4)
    BIOL 361 Microbiology with Lab (4)
    CHEM 221 Inorganic Chemistry with Lab (4)
    CHEM 231 Organic Chemistry I with Lab (4)
    CHEM 331 Organic Chemistry II with Lab (4)
    CHEM 351 Biochemistry with Lab (4)
    CHEM 372 Environmental Chemistry with Lab (3) (not regularly offered)
    CHEM 442 Instrumental Analysis with Lab (4)
    ENGL 213 Literature, Environment and Ecology (3)
    ENGL 246 Writing for Non-profit Organizations (4)
    ENVS 125 Geology and the Environment with Lab (3)
    ENVS 240 Agriculture and Sustainability (3)
    KIN 215 Introduction to Angling (3)
    KIN 261 Community, Consumer and Global Health (3)
    GEOG 110 Introduction to Geography (3)
    GEOG 238 Physical Geography: Geomorphology with Lab (4)
    GEOG 420 Advanced GIS with Lab (2)
    GERM 362 Germany and the Environment (3) (not regularly offered)
    PHIL 245 Environmental Ethics (4)
    POLS 140 Introduction to International Politics (4)
    POLS 344 International Law and Human Rights (4)
    POLS 397 State and Local Environmental Project Review Internship (3)
    PHYS 101 Introductory Physics I (4)
    PHYS 102 Introductory Physics II with Lab (4) or PHYS 111 General Physics I with Lab (5)
    PHYS 112 General Physics II with Lab (5)
    PHYS 204 Energy and Environment (3)
    SUST 125 Introduction to Global Sustainability (4)300/400-level internship by arrangement and approval by the program director
    LAS 410 courses by approval of the program director as appropriateNote: Study abroad courses may also apply as electives pending approval by the program director.

Environmental Studies Minor Requirements (23-24 credits) 

  1.  Complete all of the following:
    ENVS 120 Introduction to Environmental Science (4)
    GEOG 320 Principles of GIS (3)
  2. Complete one of the following:
    GEOG 325 Planning for Sustainable Communities (4)
    POLS 242 Global Sustainability (4)
  3. Complete one of the following:
    ECON 321 Environmental Economics (3)
    ECON 329 Economic Development (3)
    GEOG 225 Geography of Sub-Saharan Africa (3)
    HIST 237 American Environmental History (4)
    POLS 233 American Environmental Politics and Policy (4)
    SOC 335 Globalization and Development (4)
  4. Complete at least 9 credits of additional electives with the approval of the Environmental Science director (with 4 at or above the 200 level).