The Center for Environmental Studies was formed in 1978, and the first degree program was initiated in 1979. Both these events were the outcome of student efforts supported by several Brown faculty, including Dr. Harold Ward, who became the Center's director.
Throughout the 1970s, numerous students had been forming independent concentrations on the environment and issues of the environment. CES came out of recognizing the need for a communications base and a place for the sharing of ideas and information. The bachelor of arts in environmental studies was initiated in recognition of the growing number of independent concentrators with environmental foci.
The Brown Center for Environmental Studies (CES) is housed in the Urban Environmental Laboratory (UEL) at 135 Angell Street in Providence. In 1885, the building that is now the UEL was constructed as a carriage house. Grants from the Richard King Mellon Foundation in 1981 and 1982 allowed Brown to renovate the building extensively to house the newly formed Center for Environmental Studies.
Initially and over the years, much of the renovation and maintenance work on the UEL has been done by students. At the time of its renovation, the UEL was a state-of-the-art superinsulated building and today has the lowest space-heating costs/area at Brown.