ENS Course Descriptions


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 human interactions with the environment, both natural and built, and inter-human relations conditioned by local and global environmental factors. Core ideas surveyed in this class include: the meaning of an environmental philosophy, historical and cultural perspectives (Eastern and Western philosophies) of nature, the social construction of nature, environmental justice, environmental racism, local-global linkages, population, consumption and commodity chains, and political ecology.

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 & 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 ecological theories of population dynamics, community structure, and ecosystem dynamics 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 nonfiction writing course will train students to improve their writing and critical thinking skills in the context of environmental issues. The course could also incorporate engagement activities, particularly through the study of Robinson Forest in sections taught by Erik Reece. The underlying goal of making this a required course is to train students to be able to communicate effectively in writing, a skill that is particularly critical when describing environmental subjects. The students will also be required to make oral presentations related to their writing assignments. The course will further develop students’ critical thinking skills and ability to conduct independent scholarly research.

Student Learning OutcomesUpon 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)

This course will provide an introduction to moral problems that arise in human interaction with the natural environment. Topics to be addressed include questions such as: what is man’s place in nature? Do nonhuman animals or ecosystems have intrinsic moral worth, and if so, how can it be respected? What problems and ambiguities arise in attempting to live in an environmentally responsible fashion? How can we adjudicate conflicts between social and environmental values?

Student Learning Outcomes:

  • Account for one's own connection to local, regional, and global community.
  • Identify and differentiate the historical and cultural presuppositions underlying different ethical standpoints.
  • Analyze ethical environmental issues as they arise in public policy individual lifestyles.
  • Formulate potential responses to these issues based on widely respected ethical theories such as utilitarianism, deontology, virtue ethics, social constructivism, and feminist critique.
  • Evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of a range of such responses.
  • Evaluate different environmental strategies implemented on a regional and a global scale
  • Defend one's own view on these issues.

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

ENS 400 will be the culmination of the students’ activities in the ENS major and will fulfill the Graduation Communication and Composition Requirement (GCCR). In this course, students will use the skills they have developed, their fundamental knowledge of core concepts, and area expertise, to complete a capstone project (activity or study). It will create the transdisciplinary learning that is the over-arching goal of the entire program.

7. ENS 395:  Independent Study in Environmental & Sustainability Studies

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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