Environmental Studies Bachelor

Hobart and William Smith Colleges

Date Posted: Jan. 18, 2018
Submitted by: HWS Office of
Sustainability Topic: Curriculum
Content Type: Academic Programs
Program Type: Baccalaureate degree


Earth’s environment is maintained through complex feedback mechanisms which, over geologic time, have created an environment replete with myriad life forms and incredible biological, geological, and cultural diversity. Humans have always affected their environment, but since industrialization, the nature and scope of human impact has increased dramatically.

Our current use of natural resources is spiraling due to consumption-based economies and increasing demand by humans for necessities such as food and fresh water. Due largely to the destruction of the tropical rain forests, we appear to be losing species at a rate that equals or exceeds anything in the earth’s history. Human activities have led to widespread air, water, and soil pollution, and set in motion long-term and troubling changes in our climate, new extinctions, unsustainable patterns of resource extraction and waste creation. Poverty and racism further exacerbate resource access disparities and threaten the livelihoods and survival of many humans around the world.

Environmental concerns will be with us for generations as we work toward a more sustainable way of life. The Environmental Studies program structures a liberal arts education around these concerns and prepares students for entry-level positions, as well as graduate study, in fields related to environment and sustainability. The program offers an interdisciplinary major and minor combining study in the natural sciences, humanities, and social sciences. The natural sciences offer an understanding of how the environment works and how human activities affect it. The social sciences consider the social and political implications of environmental policy and the economic tradeoffs involved. The humanities offer an understanding of the concepts and values that shape our perception of, and interaction with, the environment. These approaches are combined explicitly in our introductory integrative course and the senior integrative experience. Program faculty and graduates highly recommend two majors: a major in Environmental Studies that provides a breadth of understanding of a wide array of environmental issues, along with a disciplinary major that brings depth and focus to the study of those issues.

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