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Environmental Studies Program Goals and Objectives

Environmental Studies is multidisciplinary in focus, involving the natural and social sciences, as well as the arts and humanities. It explores the relationships between people and the totality of their environments—natural, built, and social. As part of that exploration, environmental studies concerns itself with the description and analysis of natural systems; with interspecies and species-environment relationships and the institutions, policies and laws that affect those relationships; with aesthetic portrayals of nature and how those affect human perceptions and behavior toward it; and with ethical issues raised by the human presence in the environment.In order to create informed and responsible decision-makers for the present and future, educational institutions need to inculcate environmental considerations into all parts of the curriculum. The ENST program is designed to help the students appreciate the many sides of issues and let them see the ways in which the analytical approaches of different disciplines interact. Non-majors are informed by these approaches in the 100- and 200- level courses offered by the program.The purpose of the program is to prepare students to be conscious and responsible members of their environment: to educate and give them experience in multidisciplinary approaches to problem solving; to teach them the value (and necessity) of being inhabitants rather than residents; and to encourage the inclusion of environmental considerations in all studies at Vassar College.

Students choose a disciplinary concentration, which can be in any department, and view environmental issues through the perspective of that discipline. They also take multidisciplinary courses offered by the program itself. Team-taught by faculty from different divisions, these courses explore the core conceptual and historical framework of Environmental Studies, using examples from current environmental issues to illustrate and apply the multidisciplinary approach of the program.

Field work experience is an essential part of the major. While many students work with local agencies and community groups, others take a more global approach, fulfilling their field work requirement while JYA.  In their senior year, majors bring their disciplinary concentration and their courses in the program to bear on a problem or set of problems in environmental studies, conducting a practicum involving a group project focused on a local or regional environmental issue. This course is intended to integrate theory and practice and includes discussion of core readings in the field of Environmental Studies, thus serving as a capstone course for the major.