The Environmental Science & Policy degree program is jointly housed in the College of Liberal Arts and the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics, reflecting its inherent interdisciplinary nature.
Today’s environmental problems call for people who are educated in more than one discipline, highly trained in technical skills, and aware of the political, economic, and social dimensions of environmental decisions. The BA and BS degrees in Environmental Science & Policy provide solid training in basic physical, biological, and social sciences, and also address the human involvement in environmental issues. This curriculum prepares students for professional careers in Environmental Science and Policy and for subsequent graduate study in MS, PhD, and law degree programs.
In the narrowest sense, environmental science is the study of the impact of human systems on physical and biological systems, and the dependence on natural resources by human systems. In a broader sense, environmental science is the study of the interaction and co-evolution of human, physical, and biological systems. Natural science is the study of physical and biological systems. Social science is the study of human systems – economic systems, political systems, human perceptions, and human interactions. Environmental science requires knowledge of both natural and social science. Environmental policy is concerned with the most effective means of intervening to alter the pathways among which natural and human systems co-evolve. Effective intervention considers benefits and costs, uncertainties and risks, limits of knowledge, and presupposes the purposes of intervention, and the values from which the purposes are derived. The purpose of environmental science and policy is to design, evaluate, and implement policies that alter the impact of human systems on physical and biological systems, and the pathways by which natural and human systems co-evolve.
Both Bachelor of Science and Bachelor of Arts degrees are offered, as well as a minor. Most required courses are those offered in related disciplines in the College of Natural Sciences & Mathematics and the College of Liberal Arts. The curriculum fosters cross-disciplinary communication in the several required courses common to both degree programs and particularly in the Environmental Science & Policy courses (ES P 200, 300, 400).
The mix of required courses includes both natural and social sciences in both degree programs, while emphasizing natural sciences in the BS program and emphasizing social sciences in the BA program. Elective courses in the BS program enhance the students’ knowledge in natural sciences and quantitative/computer skills in the social sciences. Elective courses in the BA program emphasize applications of social science to environmental issues and policy, while permitting students to further develop their knowledge of natural sciences. The curricula of the two degrees are designed to encourage and facilitate students pursuing double majors with departments in natural or social science.