Every day, the human population places more strain on the Earth’s natural processes and resources. Understanding those processes and resources, and the ways in which they intersect with virtually all human endeavors, is vitally important to this generation and the ones to come. Elon’s environmental studies curriculum is grounded in the multidimensional aspects of sustainable practice and prepares students for careers as effective environmental professionals.
Reflecting the interconnected web of influences that affect environmental issues, the Environmental Studies major takes an interdisciplinary approach. Students gain a solid understanding of ecological principles enhanced by knowledge of related economic, social, cultural, political, legal and ethical issues. They consider environmental issues from many perspectives, exploring the balance between human needs and human impacts on ecosystems. Then they apply that knowledge through real-world experiences and fieldwork. By graduation, students are prepared to carry those critical skills into any of a number of postgraduate opportunities or career possibilities. The Environmental Studies major is designed to train the next generation of graduates interested in careers or graduate education in environmental education, sustainable development, environmental policy, urban planning, environmental management, green design, environmental regulation, and environmental communication.
“Majoring in environmental studies prepares students for a variety of options after graduation. My concentration is environmental science, but the curriculum has allowed me to take classes in philosophy, political science, biology and chemistry. I have discovered possible career routes that I had never thought about before.”
The Department of Environmental Studies and the Elon University Center for Environmental Studies are housed in the Powell House, which has computers with the latest geographic information systems (GIS) software. An additional GIS computer lab and teaching laboratories are located in the state-of-the-art McMichael Science Center, where students have access to a full range of the latest technologies, scientific instruments and facilities. The Elon Center for Public Opinion Polling located in Gray Pavilion provides students with the opportunity to participate in the development and implementation of county and state telephone polls on environmental issues. Students interested in sustainable food production can pursue courses that utilize the Elon Greenhouse and the Elon Community Garden. The studios of the Art Department represent another resource for Environmental Studies majors interested in exploring new dimensions in environmental expression and communication.
At Elon, environmental studies majors learn from and work alongside dynamic faculty with expertise in a variety of disciplines. Faculty members from 14 departments support the environmental studies curriculum. Among the faculty are a political science professor who edited a book about global warming; an economics professor who is studying the economic impacts of watershed protection on the regional economy; a philosophy professor who has written two books about environmental ethics; an environmental studies professor who publishes extensively in the area of wildlife ecology and conservation; a geography professor who uses GIS to address regional water resource management issues; an art professor whose scholarly pursuits include exploring the interaction of science and aesthetics in environmental art; and a communications professor who has recently received grant funding to study public response to marketplace advocacy and its effects on environmental attitudes.
Faculty members blend professional experience, academic training, creativity and a passion for teaching. They will help you identify your goals and help you achieve them. That attention extends beyond graduation; professors have built strong contacts with industries, non-profit organizations, government agencies, and academic institutions, and they use those contacts to help students find postgraduate positions in their areas of interest.
“Under the guidance of the many supportive faculty members in the department, I have been able to explore my interests, gain hands-on experience that correlated with what I was learning in the classroom, and participate in a research project that has helped me decide what I wanted graduation.”
The Environmental Studies major has two degree options: a Bachelor of Arts degree and a Bachelor of Science degree. The B.S. degree is designed for students interested in careers in urban planning, environmental policy, and environmental management. The B.A. degree is designed for students who wish to combine their interest in the environment with additional disciplinary training in another field of study through a second major or minor to support career paths leading to green design, sustainable development, environmental communication/journalism, sustainable business management, environmental economics, and international environmental development.
The Environmental Studies Department offers a second major in Environmental and Ecological Science for students interested in a B.S. degree that leads to a career or graduate study in environmental science, wildlife biology, conservation biology, ecosystem restoration, natural resource management, and ecology.
The B.S. and B.A. degrees in Environmental Studies both incorporate concepts from environmental science, environmental policy and law, economics, environmental ethics, environmental writing, and environmental assessment. Both curricula build upon a foundation of ecological principles from biology and environmental science. Students working toward the B.S. degree choose additional advanced courses in the following areas: 1) environmental values and communication, 2) science and analysis, and 3) policy, planning and management. After completing their foundational coursework, students earning the B.A. degree choose advanced courses in one of three optional concentrations: 1) sustainability; 2) global environmental issues; 3) environmental arts and communication. B.A. students may choose to complete a second major or minor in another discipline that complements their career aspirations.
Current B.A. Environmental Studies majors are completing second majors in political science, international studies, journalism, history, economics, philosophy, English, and minors in geography and Geographic Information Systems(GIS). The senior seminar required for both degrees gives students the opportunity to participate in a locally or regionally proposed land-use or water quality project; students develop environmental impact statements, conduct research, present findings in public hearings and work with the community to develop solutions to environmental problems.
Exceptional high school students planning to major in environmental studies could qualify for the Elon College Fellows or Honors Fellows programs. These programs offer scholarship support, study abroad grants, special courses and much more. Visit the Elon Fellows Web site for more information.
Elon’s environmental studies students have garnered top university awards, as well as national and international recognition, for their academic successes. A recent environmental studies B.S. major received the Lumen Prize, Elon’s premier award recognizing academic achievement. Another recent B.A. graduate won a Udall Scholarship and became Elon’s first George J. Mitchell Scholar and Truman Scholar.
Environmental studies majors have many extracurricular options that connect to their major. One such opportunity includes joining a living/learning residential community of environmentally concerned students who put their ideals into action. Other opportunities include joining student organizations such as Elon Outdoors, the Student Sierra Coalition, the Eco-Reps Program, the Elon Volunteers Green Team, the Student Sustainability Council, Students for Peace and Justice, and Elon’s chapter of Habitat for Humanity. On-campus employment opportunities as an environmental science lab assistant, environmental studies tutor, Elon Community Garden student manager, or greenhouse student manager are also open to Environmental Studies majors.
All environmental studies majors pursuing the B.A. degree must complete an internship experience; however, B .S. degree candidates may choose to substitute a research project conducted under the direction of an Environmental Studies Department faculty member for the internship. Recent students have completed internships with the following organizations:
The environmental studies program offers students opportunities to conduct original research and to present their findings. Students work with faculty members on projects in many areas, from evaluating attitudes about public water supply conservation programs and developing online resources to facilitate water resources education in public high schools, to exploring ways to reduce the carbon footprint of the campus community. Many environmental studies students have conducted field research during winter term programs studying tropical ecology in Belize and Peru. Recently, one Environmental Studies major conducted a water quality assessment project of a public water system during Elon’s semester-abroad program in Costa Rica while another studied the effects of invasive predatory Lionfish on coral reef communities while completing a semester-abroad program in the Turks and Caicos Islands. Environmental Studies majors are eligible to receive financial research support through the Summer Undergraduate Research Experience (SURE) program, grants from the Elon Undergraduate Research Program, and the Lumen Prize competition.
An array of options awaits environmental studies graduates. Because the curriculum has been designed to include focused environmental course work from the natural sciences, the social sciences, the arts and the humanities, graduates are broadly trained to enter the job market or pursue graduate training in a variety of career paths such as environmental education, sustainable development, environmental policy, urban planning, environmental management, transportation planning, green design, natural resource management, environmental regulation, environmental communication, and environmental law. Recent alumni have secured employment positions with:
Environmental Studies majors may elect to attend graduate or professional school. Recent graduates have attended the following graduate and professional institutions:
Our graduates have successfully competed for graduate financial support at the national level including the Udall Scholarship to support environmental career development and the Rotary Ambassadorial Scholarship to support international graduate study. A recent Environmental Studies graduate who received a Udall Scholarship was also honored as a George J. Mitchell Scholar and Truman Scholar—Elon University’s first student to be so honored.