2018-2019 Academic Bulletin 
    Jul 24, 2024  
2018-2019 Academic Bulletin [ARCHIVED CATALOG]

Environmental Science and Sustainability

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Professors Pallant (Chair), Bensel, Bethurem, Bowden, Bradshaw-Wilson, Carbone, Choate, Davis, Gross-Camp, B. Haywood, Shaffer, and Wissinger

Environmental Science and Sustainability is the study of interrelationships between human systems and activities and the natural environment. It is an integrative academic discipline in that it generates scientific knowledge about the natural world as well as a social and humanistic understanding of ways in which humans interact with that natural environment. We examine the effects of human cultural systems, policies and regulations, and economic processes on the environment and the means by which our decisions influence human actions and wellbeing. Thus, the department is truly interdisciplinary and exemplifies the liberal arts approach to education. The basic tenet of the Environmental Science and Sustainability major is that progress toward a sustainable future depends on the creative application of transboundary thinking that spans disciplines across the traditional college divisions, while striving for both depth and breadth. We seek to inspire creativity and combine passion with critical thinking skills in students who, one day, will be the citizens working to enhance global sustainability through innovative problem solving.

Faculty in the department believe that environmental specialists in the natural sciences must have a broad understanding of the social aspects of environmental problems. Likewise, a professional whose expertise is in environmental policy, management, or communications must also have a strong understanding of the scientific basis of decision-making in those fields. As such, a set of core courses is required of all majors to provide a foundation for the integration of the social sciences, natural sciences, and humanities. These core courses (24 credits) include ENVSC 110 , ENVSC 210 , FSENV 201 , ENVSC 585  , ENVSC 600 , and ENVSC 610 . In addition to this core, students must complete courses in a defined concentration developed in consultation with a faculty member from the department. Upper-level Environmental Science and Sustainability courses synthesize knowledge from many disciplines to analyze and find applied solutions to current environmental problems. Generally, these upper-level courses are also rich in lab and field experiences.

Environmental Science and Sustainability majors often pursue graduate studies and careers in field, laboratory, or applied settings. Students typically work and study at research institutions, regulatory agencies, private consulting firms, or non-profit organizations that cultivate the three pillars of sustainable development (environmental, social, and economic well-being). The Environmental Science and Sustainability major prepares students to work on issues related to terrestrial, marine, or aquatic environments.

For the purposes of fulfilling college-wide liberal studies requirements, the Environmental Science and Sustainability major is considered interdivisional. Because the major is interdivisional, students may complete any minor or second major to satisfy the college requirement that the major and minor be in different divisions.

The major leads to the Bachelor of Arts or the Bachelor of Science degree (students may elect to receive either degree) and requires the completion of a minimum of 60 credit hours. The minimum GPA for a student to graduate with a major in Environmental Science and Sustainability is 2.0. All courses required for the Environmental Science and Sustainability major (including Allegheny off-campus courses for which a letter grade is posted on the Allegheny transcript) are counted in the calculation, whether they are Environmental Science and Sustainability courses or courses listed outside the department. Courses required by the major are expected to be taken on a letter-grade basis. Exceptions must be approved by an Environmental Science and Sustainability department advisor.

Students who matriculated before Fall 2016: Some Environmental Science and Sustainability courses may be used to satisfy the college distribution requirements that apply to students who matriculated before Fall, 2016. Courses that fulfill the Natural Science requirement include: ENVSC 110 , ENVSC 210 , ENVSC 305 ENVSC 306 ENVSC 321 , ENVSC 332 , ENVSC 335 , ENVSC 344 , ENVSC 346 , ENVSC 370 , and ENVSC 385 . Courses that fulfill the Social Science requirement include: ENVSC 250 , EENVSC 352 , ENVSC 360 , ENVSC 380 , and ENVSC 585 . Internships may carry Natural Science or Social Science credit—see an Environmental Science and Sustainability faculty member for assistance.

Area of Specialization

Environmental Science and Sustainability majors must develop areas of concentration related to their major areas of interest in conjunction with a major advisor. Examples of concentrations include, but are not limited to, Environmental Philosophy; Environmental History; Communications and the Environment; Ecological Economics; Environmental Law; Environmental Policy; International Sustainable Development; Culture and the Environment; Art and the Environment; Environmental Education; Community Development; Environmental Justice; Conservation Biology; Terrestrial Ecosystems; Aquatic Ecosystems; Landscape Ecology; Environmental Toxicology; Environmental Geology; Energy Systems; and Environmental Chemistry. All students are advised to consult an Environmental Science and Sustainability Department faculty member early in their careers for course planning.

Students whose area of specialization may benefit from depth in a natural science should begin taking appropriate courses (e.g., BIO, CHEM, GEO, PHYS) in the Natural Science division as soon as possible. Many of the courses in these areas have substantial pre-requisites that should be completed as early as possible.

Off-Campus Courses and Internships

The department encourages off-campus study and internship experiences for Environmental Science and Sustainability majors. Courses taken at any departmentally approved off-campus study location (including those below) may substitute for some of the required courses for the major. In addition, internships may also be acceptable substitutes for these courses. Substitutions must be approved, in advance, by a Department advisor.


The department offers credit-bearing internships with local organizations as described under the course numbers ENVSC 518 - 528. Interested students should speak with the department’s Internship Coordinator well in advance of the semester they plan to take part in an internship. Internships change from semester to semester and new ones may be available that are not yet listed in the Bulletin. An application is required prior to registering for an internship and students with insufficient coursework or low GPAs may be ineligible.

Off-Campus Study

Allegheny College is affiliated with several off-campus study programs that are relevant to Environmental Science and Sustainability majors. Students interested in studying off-campus should speak with their advisors about the possibility of using off-campus courses in lieu of on-campus major requirements. Each program has different eligibility requirements. More complete descriptions of the off-campus programs and requirements may be obtained from the Environmental Science and Sustainability faculty or from the Director of International Education, but brief descriptions are provided below:

  • Arava Institute for Environmental Studies, Kibbutz Ketura, Israel
    A semester or year-long program in sustainable development and peace, in cooperation with students from the Middle East, North America, Europe, Africa, and Australia. Professor Pallant is the liaison.

  • School for Field Studies, Costa Rica
    A one-semester program in sustainable development in the tropics. Professor Pallant is the liaison.

  • Duke Marine Biological Lab, North Carolina and Bermuda
    A one-semester program in marine, coastal and oceanographic biology, chemistry, policy and environment. Professor Wissinger is the liaison.

  • Semester in Environmental Science, The Ecosystems Center, Woods Hole, Massachusetts
    A one-semester program in coastal and terrestrial ecology, environment, and ecosystem processes. Professor Bowden is the liaison.

Learning Outcomes

Students who successfully complete a major in Environmental Science and Sustainability are expected to be able to:

  • Demonstrate a general understanding of the breadth and interdisciplinary nature of environmental issues and sustainability (ENVSC 110 );

  • Demonstrate a general understanding of the qualitative and quantitative research methods to gain empirical evidence to evaluate environmental problems and sustainable alternatives (ENVSC 210 );

  • Demonstrate depth of critical analysis, investigative prowess, and effective writing about environmental problems that span popular, “gray,” and primary publications while articulating the interdisciplinary context of environmental issues (FSENV 201 );

  • Demonstrate the ability to locate, interpret and apply published research and lessons from successful projects to a focused environmental solution with a stakeholder group (Junior Seminar);

  • Design, conduct and present (orally and in writing) independent research that is consistent with the highest standards and practices of research in environmental sustainability (Senior Project);

  • Be well-prepared for meaningful careers and post-graduate education in fields related to environmental sustainability and beyond;

  • Identify and integrate key stakeholders in the natural sciences, humanities, and social sciences that need to be a part of sustainable solutions.


To see the courses offered in this department or program, please use the “course search” link from the menu at the right of the page.



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