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Information Relating to Both Degrees

Revision to the Concentration Program

Most students revise their concentration programs, because of evolution of their interests, unavailability of courses, new course offerings, etc. It is the student's responsibility to check these changes with her/his concentration advisor before they become irrevocable. Changes generally will be approved if they do not significantly diminish the quality of the concentration.

Thesis Proposals

Thesis proposals are due in the third week of the semester preceding that in which work will begin and should indicate the preferred advisor. These proposals will be reviewed by ES faculty and revisions in response to comments should be made by the semester's end. When ready to begin the process of selecting a thesis topic, students should refer to the Thesis Guidelines for advice and procedural information. SENIOR CAPSTONE REQUIREMENTS IN ENVIRONMENTAL STUDIES FOR 2012-2013


Students who, at the completion of their sixth semester, have done well in the courses in their concentration, may apply for Departmental Honors. Application should be made before the end of the seventh semester.

Requirements that must be met for Honors to be granted are:

  • A thesis of high quality. Refer to the information on completing an honors thesis in Thesis Guidelines, a separate document.
  • Generally a minimum grade point average of 3.3 in your concentration courses is required, but exceptions may be made if the thesis is of outstanding quality or if there are other extenuating circumstances.
  • A senior honors candidate must have two readers in addition to her/his primary faculty supervisor

Public Service

All ES students are strongly encouraged to perform some environmentally-related public service during their time at Brown. Service may include work as a teaching assistant in a relevant course, volunteer work with an environmental non-profit group or an environmental agency, or significant work with a student environmental group.

The Center for Environmental Studies

Students' individual involvement in community affairs, as embodied in the Brown Curriculum, directly contributed to the formation of the Center for Environmental Studies (CES) and the retrofitting of the Urban Environmental Lab (UEL). The Center was founded on May 3, 1978 in response to students' need for a base of communication and cooperative study on environmental issues. Similarly, the Environmental Studies concentration, approved in 1979, resulted from the increasing number of independent concentrators developing environmental programs during the early and mid-seventies.

The initial student impetus for a campus environmental center continues in the CES/UEL project today; students and faculty collaborate in the planning, maintaining, and evaluating of the program and facilities. Twenty Brown students staff the Center; they are responsible for developing and installing new technologies, producing workshops and publications, cultivating an intensively-planted community garden and greenhouse.

On the academic side, the Center provides:

  • academic and career counseling to ES concentrators and interested non-concentrators;
  • information and referral services for research projects and community inquiries;
  • science and policy-related seminars, lectures, and workshops;
  • a clearinghouse for environmental internships and volunteer opportunities, both within and beyond Providence
  • a human resource...a center for friendship, ideas, and commitment to grow.

Traditionally, academic disciplines are viewed as one-dimensional elements in a multi-dimensional world. For students and faculty to explore environmental issues and develop creative, thoughtful solutions, they must address this multi-dimensionality. The issue of urban self-reliance, for example, demands that students examine questions of resource allocation, environmental regulations, and conservation. An academic survey, therefore, is inadequate. Self-reliance is inextricably linked to lifestyle; to understand the concept fully, one must participate in a living experiment. The UEL, as a constantly developing model of "applied academic ideas", offers more than just an interdisciplinary mode of learning: it provides a facility for the living practice of those ideas within a more traditional collegiate setting.

In keeping with its multi-dimensional approach to learning, the Center has some "non-traditional" aims. One student remarked at a long-range planning meeting that the Center has two "arms": one which "reaches in" to the Brown academic community, and one which "reaches out" to the greater community of Providence and the state of Rhode Island. Through the facilities of the UEL and the community garden, and the energy of the student and faculty staff, the Center offers education opportunities and support services to Brown students and community. In its manifold goals, the Center fosters interaction between the University and the community in environmental problem-solving.

The Urban Environmental Laboratory (UEL)

An understanding of the environment is reached by examining lifestyles, values, societal norms, cultural heritage, and numerous other abstract concepts within a practical framework. The academic perspective on these elements is essential, but inadequate in and of itself. Understanding the concept of urban self-reliance begins when individuals re-examine their own lifestyles and take action to change.

The UEL as a working model anchors these goals in concrete application. The 100 year-old carriage house, retrofitted with superinsulation, passive solar heating, and a solar greenhouse, integrates a community center and educational facility under one roof. Working in the building, using its resources, and sharing in the responsibility of maintaining it, students attain a degree of environmental consciousness and urban self-sufficiency that a textbook or lecture could never hope to convey. Likewise, interested community members or groups can get a firsthand appreciation of "appropriate technologies" at the UEL.