Environmental Studies

Reflecting the interconnected web of influences that affect environmental issues, the B. S. degree in Environmental Studies and the A.B. degree in Environmental and Sustainability Studies embrace an interdisciplinary approach.   In both degree programs, students develop 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 as they compare the natural environment to the built-environment. 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 (B.S. degree) is designed to train the next generation of graduates interested in careers or graduate education in environmental policy, resource management, environmental law, sustainable development, urban planning, and environmental regulation.  The major in Environmental and Sustainability Studies (A.B. 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 a wide variety of careers or graduate programs in green design, architecture, sustainable food systems management, environmental communication, sustainable business management, environmental economics, environmental health, and international environmental development.

Exceptional courses, independent research and varied internships in the Elon Environmental Studies Department encourage hands-on learning and provide valuable experiences that help students grow as individuals and young professionals. Through an extended undergraduate research project focused on my personal interests, I was able to discover my passion within the field. Thanks to the guidance of supportive professors and the plentiful opportunities offered by the Environmental Studies Department, I feel prepared to enter the workforce and am confident that my experiences here have prepared me for a successful future.

Hannah Rolland ’16

First-rate facilities

The Department of Environmental Studies and the Elon University Center for Environmental Studies are housed in the McMichael Science Center, which has computer laboratories with the latest geographic information systems (GIS) and ecological analysis software. Students also have access to teaching and research laboratories that maintain a full range of the 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 polls on environmental issues.   Students interested in sustainable food production can pursue courses that utilize the fields and high tunnel at the Environmental Education Center at Loy Farm, the Elon University Greenhouse, and the Elon Community Garden. The studios of the Art Department represent another resource for Environmental Studies majors interested in employing new dimensions in environmental expression and communication.  Additionally, the design-build prototyping studio at the Environmental Education Center at Loy Farm is fully equipped with hand-held and table top power tools used in the construction of buildings and building components.

Engaged faculty

At Elon, the Environmental Studies Department is staffed by a dynamic faculty with expertise in a variety of disciplines.  Faculty members from 12 departments deliver the environmental studies curriculum. Among the faculty are a geographer who uses GIS to address regional water resource management issues, an agro-ecologist with extensive farming experience who pioneers sustainable food production techniques both locally and globally, an architect who designs and constructs sustainable buildings with his students, a wildlife biologist who uses GIS to study climate effects on animal biogeography, a religious studies scholar who focuses on social and environmental justice issues, a marine biologist who studies wetland plants and their response to rising  sea levels, an artist whose scholarly pursuits include exploring the interaction of science and aesthetics through eco- art, a writer who uses gardening courses as a tool to teach students about the interdependence of humans and nature, and an ecologist who examines development impacts on river and soil ecology and who has won awards for her local water quality conservation efforts.

Majoring in Environmental Studies has enhanced every aspect of my life, sense of self, and sense of responsibility to the Earth. This program has truly challenged and enabled me to become a person who is confident, passionate, and excited to set forth into the world post-graduation. The peers and faculty I have met throughout my four years have become friends and mentors I hope to remain close with throughout my life.
Ellen Lana ’16

Wide-ranging curriculum

There are two Environmental Studies majors: a Bachelor of Arts degree in Environmental and Sustainability Studies and a Bachelor of Science degree in Environmental Studies.  The B.S. degree is designed for students interested in careers in environmental policy, resource management, environmental law, sustainable development, urban planning, and environmental regulation.  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, architecture, sustainable food systems management, environmental communication, sustainable business management, environmental economics, environmental health, and international environmental development.

The Environmental Studies Department offers a third science-focused 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. degree in Environmental Studies and the B.A. degrees in Environmental and Sustainability Studies both incorporate courses that span the natural sciences, social sciences, and the arts & humanities.  Students who complete the B.S. degree in Environmental Studies develop a solid understanding of ecological principles enhanced by knowledge of related economic, social, cultural, political, legal and ethical issues.   They complete additional advanced courses in the following areas: 1) environmental values and communication, 2) science and analysis, and 3) policy, planning and management.  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 A.B. degree in Environmental and Sustainability Studies major has fewer required courses which make it easier for students to complete a second major in an area of their interest or in an allied field of study that complements their vocational aspirations as an environmental/sustainability professional.  The major in Environmental and Sustainability Studies (A.B. degree) prepares students for a wide variety of careers or graduate programs in sustainable design, architecture, sustainable food systems management, environmental communication, environmental health, and human ecology.  The specific upper-level  course work for the A.B. degree is determined by the student’s choice of one of three concentrations (responsible design and building arts, sustainable food production, and human ecology.  The A.B. students are exposed to extensive experiential course work with practical education in the agricultural fields, high tunnel production facility, outdoor classroom, and design-fabrication prototype studio at the Environmental Education Center at Loy Farm.

Recent A.B. degree graduates have completed second majors in International Studies, Spanish, French, Philosophy, Religious Studies, Policy Studies, Public Health Studies, Journalism, Marketing, Economics and Statistics and minors in 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.

Honors and scholarships

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 and the Honors 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. Past environmental studies majors have received the Lumen Prize, Elon’s premier award recognizing academic achievement. Another 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 Kappa Alpha Omicron Environmental Professional Society, 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, design studio assistant, Elon Community Garden student manager, Loy farm garden manager, greenhouse student manager, and sustainability program assistant are also open to Environmental Studies majors.

Internships

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:

  • U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
  • U.S. Forest Service
  • U.S. Park Service
  • Massachusetts Audubon Society
  • North Carolina Youth Conservation Corps
  • Conservator’s Center
  • New York Power Authority
  • Fund for the Public Interest
  • OSA Conservation
  • North Carolina Youth Conservation Corps
  • Food and Water Watch

Local, national and international research

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. 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 assessed queen conch fisheries management 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.

After graduation

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:

  • VISTA-AmeriCorps
  • North Carolina Department of the Environment and Natural Resources
  • North Carolina Coastal Federation
  • U.S. National Whitewater Center
  • Walt Disney Corporation
  • World Resources Institute
  • Public Health Foundation of India
  • Urban Offsets
  • Grow Biointensive
  • Active Energies Solar

Environmental Studies majors may elect to attend graduate or professional school. Recent graduates have attended the following graduate and professional institutions:

  • University of Wales, Cardiff, UK
  •  UC Santa Barbara
  • Stanford University
  • Emory University
  • Georgetown University
  • Parsons School of Design
  • University of Georgia School of Law
  • Indiana University School of Public and Environmental Affairs
  • Virginia Technical University
  • Wake Forest University
  • Clemson University
  • University of Pennsylvania
  •  Washington University
  • University of New Hampshire

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.