ENS Core Course Descriptions

If you are either a prospective or current student and would like to view a copy of each course's syllabus, please contact Dr. Betsy Beymer-Farris at bbeymer-farris@uky.edu.


1. ENS 201: Environmental & Sustainability Studies I: Humanities and Social Sciences

This course exposes students to core ideas, theoretical concerns, and practical approaches to environmental studies framed within the disciplines of the humanities and social sciences. Students will study various envirnomental and sustainability theoretical approaches and perspectives and then learn how to apply those to various real-world situations. Some of the core ideas surveyed in this class include: population and scarcity, markets and commodities, environmental ethics, political economy, risks and hazards, and the social construction of nature.

Student Learning OutcomesUpon completion of this course students will be able to:

  • Explain the differences in historical, cultural, and philosophical traditions towards the environment.
  • Analyze and critique a specific sustainability management program instituted at the local level.
  • Evaluate the roles that stakeholder and societal diversity play in environmental concerns.
  • Explain how and why environmental toxins and hazards disproportionately affect people of color, low income communities, women, and people of the Global South.
  • Analyze the link between local and global environmental concerns.
  • Apply knowledge gained through the course to reveal social, cultural, gendered, racial and other dimensions of diversity to a given environmental issue (such as a “commodity chain”).

2. ENS 202: Environmental and Sustainability Studies II: Natural Sciences and Policy

This course, offered each spring, is an introduction to the Natural Science and Policy of Environmental & Sustainability Studies. The core ideas include understanding how the theories about ecological community structure, ecosystem dynamics, and climate change lay a scientific foundation to understanding the nature of current environmental issues and how they might be addressed individually and through governmental legislation. The course will provide core concepts that will be utilized and developed further in the degree electives.

Student Learning OutcomesUpon completion of this course students will be able to:

  • Understand basic ecological theory from a scientific perspective.
  • Explain the reasons for existing environmental problems.
  • Understand different approaches and strategies to solve existing environmental problems.
  • Show how environmental policies require fundamental scientific developments.
  • Understand the implications of environmental policies for the public well-being.

3. ENS 300: Special Topics in Environmental & Sustainability Studies

This course serves two primary purposes within the ENS B.A. degree. It provides a means of introducing new courses that are needed within the major requirements under the degree themes. It will also allow the introduction of new, important topics into the degree program, possibly on a multi-year basis or more frequently.

4. ENG 425: Environmental Writing

This class will examine environmental writing related to landscapes, natural history, field guides, scientific ecology, travel pieces, and many more. The course will explore influential environmental writers including John Muir, Edward Abbey, and E. O. Wilson. Students will be inspired to write about the natural world around them through course field trips and other field exercises. This writing will be submitted in stages and reviewed in workshop groups.

Student Learning Outcomes: Upon completion of this course students will be able to:

  • Understand the origins and purposes of environmental writing.
  • Write effective, clear, and concise descriptions of environmental subjects.
  • Communicate effectively, in written and oral form.
  • Write literature reviews for specific, targeted audiences.
  • Observe the importance of clear, factual writing in educating the public.

5. PHI 336:  Environmental Ethics (fall semesters)

In Environmental Ethics, we study the theory of our ethical relation to the nonhuman world, the social and political contexts in which these ethical theories function, and the idea of sustainability. Some basic questions we ask include the following: How does an environmental ethic differ from traditional ethical theories? Do nonhuman animals or ecosystems have moral worth, and if so, how can competing moral claims between distinct moral entities be adjudicated? What is the human place in nature? How ought we to conserve the natural world? What is sustainability, and in what sense is this an ethical theory?

Student Learning Outcomes: At the conclusion of class, students will be able to

  • Demonstrate skills necessary to read complex and dense texts comprehendingly
  • Explain and defend one's own ethical standpoint according to basic theories & concepts
  • Summarize and critique ethical positions from the perspective of traditionally underrepresented groups
  • Describe the system of public lands protection in the United States and analyze the philosophical ideas Underlying the main public lands management agencies in the Federal Government
  • Identify and assess one's own concrete interaction to their surrounding world, especially in reference to the concept of sustainability

6. ENS 400:  Capstone Course in Environmental and Sustainability Studies

The ENS capstone course explores the importance of the ideas and concepts students learned in the Environmental and Sustainability Studies Program.  The course provides the skillsets needed to enter the job market and/or graduate school in the field of Environmental and Sustainability Studies.  The majority of the class is centered upon the opportunity to conduct rigorous, applied, solution-based research, and further develop students' critical thinking skills. Research will be conducted in partnership with UK's campus or a local organization (nonprofit, public, or private) addressing a pre-determined research question from an interdisciplinary perspective. As a result, students will work on “engaged scholarship” to prepare them for interdisciplinary team-based research in their career.

7. ENS 395:  Independent Study in Environmental & Sustainability Studies (Not Required)

Requirements: Project proposal and support of faculty mentor

This 3-credit course can have a variety of uses, including involvement in sustainability projects, engagement activities on and off campus, independent research (writing projects for publication, laboratory research related to sustainability, field studies, and other student-originated activities). Students should develop their own independent study plans or participate in ongoing ENS 395 projects.

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