Why Study Environmental Sciences/ Studies at Westminster?
Our challenging interdisciplinary curriculum combines academic rigor with real-world experiences. The curriculum fosters:
- an understanding of Nature and its relationship with humans
- an understanding of relationships between and within the natural world and constructed environments
- the ability to analyze and integrate knowledge from a wide range of disciplines
- the ability to communicate across disciplines and collaborate with colleagues to solve problems and address real-world issues
- the basis for careers in environmental fields as well as graduate studies
The Environmental Studies major emphasizes political, economic and social/cultural aspects of the human impact on the natural environment, while still grounding students in fundamentals of the natural and earth sciences. The curriculum has been designed to give students broad exposure to these disciplines. Through careful course selection, students are able to shape the major to fit their interests and their intended career path. Students complete two capstone experiences, an internship and the Environmental Assessment course, which allow them to integrate knowledge gained from coursework, practice critical thinking and communication skills, and work with resource professionals to tackle relevant environmental issues.
Environmental Studies majors tackle the environmental issues of our day from a variety of perspectives. Students gain a strong footing in political, economic and social theory. They are also challenged to consider how our culture, ethics and religion influence our responses to environmental issues. For example in Spiritual Ecology students consider the connections between religious faith and caring for nature/creation. In Environmental Ethics students consider contemporary environmental issues, such as pollution, global climate change and preservation of species, using traditional ethical theories, biocentric and ecocentric ethics, deep ecology, and concepts from economics and policy analysis.
Students also gain a firm understanding of the natural sciences. Introductory Soil Science introduces students to the processes of soil formation, emphasizing the influence of vegetation, climate landforms and human activity; while in Hydrogeology students learn about natural water systems both on and beneath the surface. Ecology and Field Biology investigates the interactions among species and between species and their environment; while Biogeography explores why organisms are where they are and Conservation Biology probes the issues around species and habitat preservation and conservation.
In addition, a number of travel courses are available to Environmental Studies students. Past courses have included travel within the United States to explore National Parks as well as international travel to a wide variety of locations including: Belize, Costa Rica, Kenya, Peru, Ecuador, Iceland, Argentina, the Galapagos Islands and the English Moors. A perennial favorite is the “Biology of Belize” course that highlights the natural and cultural history of this Central American nation known for its conservation and ecotourism.
A number of opportunities exist for students to gain practical experience both inside and outside of the classroom. Courses in the natural and earth sciences typically include field trips that allow students to gain important research skills or to interact with resource professionals. Past trips include visits to the Callaway Nuclear Facility, the Fulton Landfill and Water Treatment facilities, Eagle Bluffs Wetlands, and Terra Bella and Chert Hollow Farms. Classes also visit various sites to practice field research techniques.
Students may also participate in a number of extra-curricular organizations and activities including Environmentally Concern Students (ECoS) and EcoHouse. EcoHouse is a living-learning laboratory where residents aim to live as efficiently as possible, exemplify environmental stewardship, make socially just decisions, and engage, educate and inspire others to lead lives that are in harmony with our environment. EcoHouse residents often work together with members of ECoS to promote awareness of and solutions for current environmental issues.
Students seeking this major are those interested in working on the policy or administrative side of conservation and natural resource management. Career opportunities include positions in: ecosystem management, sustainable business administration, regional, national and international nongovernmental organizations as well as government agencies and departments. Students may also pursue related careers in law, policymaking, education, public health or business.
Quote from Student
“Being an environmental science major at Westminster has opened my eyes to the urgent attention needed in this field. I enjoy going to the classes and relating what’s being taught to what we see going on in the outside world. Due to the dedication of the faculty in the program, along with the content, I would say this is one of the more successful fields at Westminster College.” ---Jason Williams
For more information, contact Dr. Irene Unger at 573-592-5273.