The Environmental Studies Degree
Environmental Studies concentration at Brown is a rigorous but flexible undergraduate program. Concentrators are required to take fourteen (14) courses, eight in the core curriculum, four focal courses chosen by the student, and two thesis courses. This number of courses is not excessively narrowing because of the inherent breadth in the concentration. The concentration is sufficiently flexible that, if a student desires, requirements for a bachelor of arts degree in a standard science or a social science may be met simultaneously. Students planning graduate study in a traditional discipline should consider this option seriously.
Caroline Karp is the concentration advisor for Environmental Studies and is pleased to consult with any prospective concentrator. Students interested in considering the Environmental Studies concentration are urged to visit the Center at 135 Angell Street (the Urban Environmental Laboratory) regularly to begin to take part in the activities of the environmental community at Brown.
Core Course Requirements
Since significant environmental problems are naturally resistant to solutions derived from a single discipline, the core curriculum of an Environmental Studies concentration encompasses the natural and social sciences, and includes a two-semester integrative thesis. The core curriculum provides an introduction to specific issues, experience in environmental research and problem-solving, and grounding in related disciplines.
- ENVS0110, Environmental Issues or equivalent - The introductory course designed to assist students in identifying the knowledge and skills necessary to address environmental problems. Most ES concentrators will take this course in their first or third semester (equivalents could include GE0l0070B Global Envtl Change, ES0070A, Environment and Society or a similar course from transferring institution depending on the student’s situation. Substitution requires approval of the concentration advisor. A score of 5 on the AP exam can be used to satisfy ES11 or ES49 with permission of the concentration advisor.).
- Three intermediate level social science or humanities courses appropriate to the student's focus. Students are strongly encouraged to take Environmental Economics and an environmental policy course. Possibilities include: ENVS01350, Environmental Economics and Policy - Examines the use and abuse of quantitative data in environmental analysis and decision. Topics include basic statistics, cost and risk-benefit analysis, decision theory, and gaming. Normally taken in the fifth semester, and ENVS1410, Environmental Policy and Practice- This course examines the distribution of responsibility for the formulation and execution of environmental policy in the United States. The role of science, the regulated community and the lay public in environmental decision-making will also be considered. Alternative regulatory and institutional frameworks will be evaluated with reference to specific environmental issues. Prerequisite: ENVS0110.
- Two intermediate-level science courses. ENVS0490, Environmental Science, is recommended. The most frequently chosen courses outside of ES are BIOL0420, Principles of Ecology, and GEOL0220, Physical Processes in Geology, but other science courses at a comparable level that are particularly relevant to a concentration also may be taken to meet this requirement.
- ENVS1920, Analysis and Resolution of Environmental Problems- Practicum which serves as preparation for thesis research and provides experience in cooperative problem solving. A significant local environmental issue is selected and each student is responsible for detailed investigation of a facet of the issue. This course is usually taken in the sixth semester.
- Demonstration of quantitative competence - For most students, this will be a course in statistics – PHP2030 or PHP2130 are particularly recommended, but other statistics courses may be acceptable if particularly suited to a concentration. For concentrations with a humanities focus, a methodology course may be used to meet this requirement.
The six focal courses are selected to support the individual interest of each student. These courses should be coherent and should increase in level of challenge, culminating in the thesis. These courses usually center on one environmental issue (for example, groundwater protection, estuarine management, environmental indicators or risk communication) and emphasize the appropriate problem-solving approaches drawn from disciplines, such as public policy, economics, biology, geology, and education. This emphasis ensures that concentrators achieve significant depth of intellectual inquiry in a chosen area. We strongly urge that one course have a serious ethics/values component. The list of "Suggested Courses for the Environmental Studies Concentration" included in this guide is useful in identifying the wide range of courses and disciplines that may fit into an individual concentration.
ENVS1970-1971, Senior Thesis - The preparation of a thesis is the culmination of the environmental studies concentration. Considerable emphasis is placed on the thesis, since most students find it to be the most valuable single part of their education. The thesis integrates coursework, and applies classwork to significant issues. Seniors are encouraged to investigate topics of current importance and often choose to study regional environmental problems. A seminar is an integral part of these courses and provides a mechanism for sharing experiences in thesis preparation. The standard thesis requirement calls for two semesters of work and one thesis reader; candidates for an honors degree must complete a two-semester thesis that is reviewed by a three-member committee. Students begin planning the thesis in their sixth semester. For the complete thesis information, refer to Thesis Guidelines, a separate document.