The Environmental Studies (ENS) major is Centre’s newest major, and it is becoming quite popular at Centre. The major contains unique and complicated criteria. Assistant Professor of Environmental Studies and Chair of the Environmental Studies Program Dr. Brett Werner and Lucas Do, a junior Environmental Studies and Spanish major explain what it is all about.

Judi Zhang | The Cento Majoring in Environmental Studies is an option for students regardless of their interest of study.

Judi Zhang | The Cento
Majoring in Environmental Studies is an option for students regardless of their interest of study.

First of all, the major is interdisciplinary which means that it is not limited to just one field of study.

“The basic structure begins and ends with [ENS] classes, and the middle is filled in with classes from all over the College. You take a course in social sciences, natural sciences, humanities, and Ecology. For next year we’ll have courses in Economics, English, Anthropology, Biology, Chemistry, Politics, and more,” Dr. Werner said.

Essentially, the major involves applying environmental awareness in many different areas of study.

“ENS has three different focuses. There’s the humanities focus, which includes environmental philosophy and environmental literature. Probably the most popular focus is social sciences, such as Anthropology, environmental law, and environmental economics,” Do said. “The third focus is science, such as environmental chemistry, and these courses have a scientific ecological focus.”

 Because of the interdisciplinary nature of the ENS major, students are encouraged to recognize patterns and connections in how different areas of study treat environmental topics.

“If you take a class in Philosophy and a class in Economics, you get those two different perspectives on environmental issues, and the challenge is trying to figure out how to make them connect,” Dr. Werner said.

The major presents students with numerous approaches toward environmental concepts and allows them to connect them together to form a holistic view of the important issues at hand.

“Seeing the connections between biology and chemistry is one thing, but seeing the connections between biology and philosophy is quite another,” Dr. Werner said.

The vast variety of classes required for the ENS major mean that even before graduating, a student in the major already applied the major studies to an expansive set of other fields. Perhaps a student enjoys writing about environmental issues, a humanities focus, more than the scientific focus of sampling water for pollutants. Both of these applications of environmental studies fall within the major, and both bring the possibility of a future career.

“ENS is a big field right now. It really all depends on what your focus is. ENS is more educating you about an area than teaching you a specific skill set. You take that area and then you apply your skill set and your interests to that area,” Do said.

Dr. Werner mentioned a multitude of options which the major prepares a student to pursue: graduate school, sustainable agriculture, environmental law, environmental writing, land management, environmental education, state parks, and environmental policy. ENS applies to nearly any field, and the interdisciplinary major allows students to explore a good deal of the applications.

ENS majors come from any number of backgrounds and can focus on any of the disciplines contained within the major, but they generally have one thing in common: a passion for the environment.

“Quite a few people who go into it have a more activist mindset, where this is something they’re passionate about and there are issues that they want to fix. I think that really sets it apart,” Do said.

While the way each student applies their studies is distinct, the major is united by a desire to improve the world.

“Taking one or two ENS courses can really change the way someone thinks about the environment,” Do said.

Additionally, environmental issues are ever-present in modern society.

“There’s a practical life side of things, being more aware of environmental issues because they’re going to be part of people’s lives. They’re going to live in a world where they’re going to have to understand energy, pollution, biodiversity laws, and climate change,” Dr. Werner said. “Those things are going to come up, so having some exposure, background, and understanding of these topics really helps.”

The ENS major is new and it is growing. As with any major, it will develop over time and will undoubtedly change. The core, however, is an application of environmental topics to a wide base of subjects, and a passion to create change. The modern world is full of environmental problems, and the ENS major prepares our students to tackle them.

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