Environmental and Urban Studies Major

Urban and environmental issues are inter-connected. Urbanization, climate change, habitat loss, pollution, food and energy needs, and issues of social justice and economic stability are among the most pressing issues facing contemporary societies. Environmental and urban processes operate at multiple scales, involving natural and human consequences that cannot be addressed solely from within a single discipline. Students will gain an understanding of the interconnected natural and urban realms, building their understanding of what sustainable development means and how opportunities and challenges can be met. The major motivates a deeper theoretical understanding of urbanism and nature, as well as practical strength in addressing urban and environmental challenges. It brings a spatial and place-based perspective to the study of these challenges, using built form and environmental context as key, conceptual lenses to investigate the social, cultural, economic and humanistic dimensions of urbanism.  

Program of Study

The Environmental and Urban Studies program encourages interdisciplinary approaches to the complex interactions and intersections of urbanism, environment, and society by incorporating frameworks, theories, models and methods from the humanities, social sciences, natural sciences, urban planning and design, and urban science. Students can choose to focus on either the Environmental Track or the Urban Track. Students interested in urban environmental topics can design their program of study through either track.

  • The Environmental track of the major emphasizes critical thinking and rigorous applications to the study of the environment through the social sciences and humanities. Central concepts to this track include human behavior and its relationship to the environment, moral and ethical dimensions of environmental preservation and conservation, the evolution of environmental discourse, communications and media, and cultural and historical constructions of nature and the human.  The track provides emphases in environmental economics and policy, law and politics, sustainable development, human ecology, environmental ethics and justice, and the social and humanistic study of climate change.
  • The Urban track of the major emphasizes perspectives on human interaction with the urban, built environment. The track encourages a spatial and place-based urban perspective, meaning that built form and environmental context provide the conceptual core through which the social, economic, and political understanding of urbanism is pursued. The track approaches the nature, dynamics and human experience of cities by capitalizing on the growth of interest in urban design, urban planning and emerging urban science.

Students in other fields of study may also complete a minor in Environmental and Urban Studies with an emphasis on one of these tracks. Requirements for the minor follow the description of the major.