College Bulletin - Course Catalog 
    Apr 24, 2018  
College Bulletin - Course Catalog

Environmental Studies

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ERIC JENSEN (Physics and Astronomy)
Cassy Burnett (Administrative Coordinator)


Elizabeth Bolton (English Literature)3
Timothy Burke (History)
Giovanna Di Chiro (Environmental Studies)
Erich Carr Everbach (Engineering)
Christopher R. Graves (Chemistry and Environmental Studies)
José-Luis Machado (Biology)3
Arthur McGarity (Engineering)3
Rachel Merz (Biology)
Carol Nackenoff (Political Science)
Elizabeth Nichols (Biology)
Gustavo Oliveira (Environmental Studies)
Jennifer Peck (Economics and Environmental Studies)
Jennifer Pfluger (Environmental Studies)
Christine Schuetze (Anthropology)
Mark Wallace (Religion)

3 Absent on leave, 2017-2018.

Why Environmental Studies? Why now?

Profound anthropogenic changes are occurring in the land, water, and air around us, with the result that human societies face greater changes and environmental challenges than we have ever known. Global population is expected to exceed nine billion by 2040; global energy consumption is rising sharply while even present-day carbon emissions intensify global warming. Along with global warming, trends such as deforestation, mass extinctions, and eutrophication threaten the finely-balanced marine and terrestrial ecosystems on which we rely for food, water, shelter, and more. Sea-water rise along with increasing heat and drought will create climate refugees and resource conflicts on unprecedented scales. Responding to these crises requires all the creativity and rigor and compassion we can gather-including the cultivation of intellectual skills that until recently were housed in discrete and disparate disciplines.

Environmental studies brings together the natural sciences and engineering, the humanities, and the social sciences to tackle environmental issues of great complexity and socio-political importance. In relation to climate change, for instance, natural scientists provide data to understand the scope of the problem and the processes that result in global warming, social scientists help to understand and craft policies around human behaviors that cause climate change, and humanists provide the moral and historical framework to understand our obligation to action and the tools to communicate environmental values. Only an integrated, interdisciplinary approach can address the extremity and complexity of the challenges we face: students must learn to think across and through disciplines in order to become the kinds of problem-solvers our societies so urgently need.

The Academic Program

Course Major

Students majoring in Environmental Studies will complete twelve credits in the program, including Introduction to Environmental Studies; 2 Environmental Science and Technology credits, including at least 1 lab course; 2 Environmental Social Science credits; 2 Environmental Arts and Humanities credits; a 4-credit topical or disciplinary focus designed by the student in conversation with the faculty coordinator; the Environmental Studies Capstone or a thesis.

Overview of the Curriculum

1) ENVS 001: Introduction to Environmental Studies. This is a team-taught, interdisciplinary introduction to the field of Environmental Studies. Faculty instructors are drawn from the natural sciences and engineering on the one hand and from social sciences and humanities on the other in order to ensure cross-disciplinary perspectives and connections.

2-3) Two Environmental Social Science courses. We expect our students to grasp the fundamentals of economic policies, environmental histories, and socio-cultural formations; we also want them to be able to design, conduct, and analyze empirical research.

4-5) Two Environmental Arts and Humanities courses. We want our students to be able to analyze rhetorical strategies of individual texts and broader discourse communities (e.g. climate justice movements as well as climate denial). We want them to question the assumptions underlying existing cultural structures and explore alternatives. When possible, we want them to develop creative skills to help them inspire and motivate others.

6-7) Two Environmental Science and Technology courses, including at least one lab course. We expect our students to be able to conduct inquiry-based science, working with raw data as well as understanding data produced by others. 

8-11) A four-course topical or disciplinary focus, including elements of methodological development and practical engagement (praxis). This focus offers our students the opportunity to develop their own areas of expertise while also developing greater depth and breadth in interdisciplinary problem-solving. Sample thematic and disciplinary foci are listed below.

12) Environmental Studies Capstone or thesis. The capstone brings graduating seniors back together to work on collaboration and to share their diverse talents and backgrounds in tackling a shared topic or challenge. The professor of the capstone may choose to allow students to write a thesis in place of and/or in conjunction with the capstone. The capstone or thesis meets the requirement for the senior comprehensive experience. The President's Sustainability Research Fellowship can also serve as a senior comprehensive experience by permission of the Environmental Studies chair.

Environmental Studies courses at Bryn Mawr and Haverford can also be applied to the major with the agreement of the Faculty Coordinator of Environmental Studies.

Sample thematic foci:

Food: ENVS/BIOL 009 Our Food; ENVS 032/SOAN 066C Brazil, China, and the Global Food Environment; ENGR 010 Fundamentals of Food Engineering; ENVS 052/CHIN 086 Food, Cuture, and Farming in China.

Disasters: ENVS 006 Visions of the End; ENVS 026 Environmental History of the Soviet Union; ENVS 031/PEAC 055/SOCI 055C Climate Disruption; ENVS 051/JPNS 035 Narratives of Disaster and Rebuilding in Japan.

Sustainability: ENVS 004 Urban Environmental Community Action; ENVS 089 Sustainability Research Methods [2 credits]; ENVS 092A Directed Reading: UNFCCC COP.; Independent Study Project.

Asia (courses developed through Luce Initiative on Asian Studies and the Environment): CHIN 089 Tea Culture; CHIN 087/POLS 087 Water Policies, Water Issues: China & US; POLS 088 Environmental Governance in China; ENVS 052/CHIN 086 Food, Culture, and Farming in China.

Sample disciplinary foci:

Environmental Biology: BIOL 036 Ecology; BIOL 037 Conservation Biology; BIOL 137 Biodiversity and Ecosystem Function [2 cr]

Environmental Economics: ECON 055 Behavioral Economics; ECON 081 Economic Development; ECON 176 Environmental Economics [2 cr]

Environmental Engineering: ENVS 075/ENGR 063 Water Quality and Pollution Control; ENVS 076/ENGR 066 Environmental Systems; ENVS 077/ENGR 035 Solar Energy Systems; ENVS 078/ENGR 057 Operations Research

Environmental Literature: ENVS 042/ENGL 089E Ecofeminism(s); ENVS 043/ENGL 089/SOAN 20M Race, Gender, Class, and Environment; ENVS 044/ENGL 089B Materials that Matter; ENVS 045B River Stories or ENVS 040/RELG 022 Religion and Ecology.

Course Minor

Students minoring in Environmental Studies take at least six credits in the program, consisting of the Introduction to Environmental Studies; 2 Environmental Science courses; 2 Environmental Social Science or Humanities courses; and the Environmental Studies capstone.
Environmental Studies courses at Bryn Mawr and Haverford can also be applied to the minor.

Special Honors Major

Honors special majors complete four related preparations (constituting at least 8 units of credit).  These may include seminars, course combinations, a course plus attachment, a thesis, etc.  The rubric for relating these preparations has been devised by the student and approved by the ENVS faculty. One of the preparations may be used toward a cognate major or minor if the other departmental requirements have been met.  Honors special majors must either write a thesis examined by examiners from at least two departments or be examined orally by a panel of their four examiners (or both).  

Honors Minor

Honors minors in Environmental Studies must complete all requirements of the course minor while also proposing an honors preparation which will normally be either a seminar or a combination of the capstone and an earlier ENVS course.


Off-Campus Study

Swarthmore's Central European Programs in Brno, Czech Republic and Krakow, Poland

Swarthmore operates closely related environmental study abroad programs in Central Europe hosted by Masaryk University in Brno, Czech Republic and by the Jagiellonian University and Politechnika Krakowska in Krakow, Poland. Students usually take three environmentally related courses, taught in English, as well as a required language and culture course that includes intensive language instruction in either Czech or Polish. The Brno program, based in Masaryk University's Department of Environmental Studies, focuses primarily on environmental social sciences and humanities. An internship at one of two environmental NGO's, supervised by faculty for academic credit, is available at either Hnuti Duha (Czech branch of Friends of the Earth) or the Veronica Sustainability Center. The Krakow program, based in Politechnika Krakowska's Department of Environmental Engineering, focuses primarily on environmental science and technology. For more information, see the website:

Cape Town South Africa Program on Globalization and the Natural Environment

Swarthmore is a member of a consortium with Macalester and Pomona Colleges that sponsors a junior year environmental study abroad program in collaboration with the University of Cape Town, South Africa. Students from the three consortium schools, as well as those schools under consortium agreements with the three schools, may apply. For more information, see the website:

Environmental Studies Courses

ENVS 090-099 Directed Reading, Independent Project, Capstone

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