Concentrations

Students who major in Environmental Studies are required to choose 4 core courses, and then select their area of “concentration” or specialization.  These are normally defined as one of the world’s grand environmental challenges, described below.   Students are also expected to take several courses in the same discipline to help develop an analytical lens to better understand the problem and evaluate possible remedies.  There is no single recipe for the correct balance between disciplinary and problem focused courses, however at least 2 courses from the same discipline should provide a minimal foundation for students pursuing the BA degree.  Meeting the requirements of a Multidisciplinary Academic Program such as Global Health, Energy, or Human Rights Studies would provide additional depth to the concentration.  The most ambitious concentrations are provided by double majoring.  Concentrations are more specialized in the BS program, and completing the Pre-Medical Degree requirements provides an example. For each degree we anticipate that students will learn research methods, analytic skills, theories, and their applications to real problems.  The concentration is meant to prepare students to conduct their 2-term senior essay. 

Ideally, course selection in the concentration should proceed with thoughtful intention.  Coursework should provide context so you can further understanding of the scientific, historical, political, legal, economic, and/or cultural dimensions of a serious environmental challenge, or a scientific research question.  By senior year, students should develop the capacity to: articulate a clear causal research question; conduct a literature review focused on their question; acquire research skills needed to collect, analyze, and interpret scientific evidence.  Students should also be prepared to write a clear and articulate senior essay prospectus that captures the purposes, methods, plausible hypotheses, findings, and interpretations of their efforts.  Students should learn to judge problem severity, to evaluate possible remedies, and to conceive of new solutions that could be efficient, equitable, and effective. 

Students work with the DUS to select the six courses that fit their academic goals and count toward the concentration.  The list of concentration courses should include at least one course that emphasizes research methods appropriate to the concentration or the essay and it must include an advanced seminar (200 level or above) with a focus on research and writing.  Students in the BS Program must also include three SC designated courses in their concentrations.  Also, students can pursue one of the major’s established concentrations, or opt to build a self-defined concentration.

Established Concentrations

Biodiversity and Conservation (BA and BS)

Description | The biodiversity of our planet, and conserving that richness, is critical to maintaining the stability and function of natural systems.  Students in this concentration explore the interconnectivity of natural systems, and the resilience that results. Read more about this concentration here.

Suggested Concentration Courses

Energy and Climate (BA and BS)

Description | The intent of this specialization is to create a pathway for students to help develop a more efficient, economic, renewable, and heathier energy future. Concentration topics might include the study of extraction costs; efficiencies of production; need for distribution networks; storage technologies, environmental effects and costs such as air, water, food, and land contamination; species and ecological loss; and potential for damaging health. This concentration may be combined with the Energy Studies Multidisciplinary Academic Program.  Read more about Energy and Climate here.

Suggested Concentration Courses

Environmental Humanities (BA)

Description | Students explore what it means to be human in a time of rapid global environmental change.  Understanding human relations with their environments and can be developed by the study of history, literature, art, architecture, film studies, philosophy, and anthropology. Interdisciplinary study in these fields and topics is also facilitated by the Yale Environmental Humanities Initiative that provides a forum for faculty and student scholarly engagement in these fields.   Read more about Environmental Humanities here.

Suggested Concentration Courses

Environmental Justice (BA)

Description | The Environmental Justice concentration includes the study of justice, discrimination, morality, equality, human rights, property rights, democracy, transparency, compensation, vulnerability, and susceptibility. Courses in the concentration provide a path for fulfilling the Human Rights Studies Multidisciplinary Academic Program or for completing a double-major in Environmental Studies and any one of several related fields in the social sciences or humanities. Read more about this concentration here.

Suggested Concentration Courses

Environmental Policy: Politics, Economics, Law, & Ethics (BA)

Description | Students in this concentration examine diverse environmental policies through fields including   politics, economics, law, and ethics.  Environmental Policy as a concentration is inherently interdisciplinary given the diversity of environmental and natural resource challenges facing humanity.  Policy interventions are often intended to diminish problems that vary in scale, scope, intensity, severity, and complexity.  Most environmental, climate, and natural resource scarcity challenges demand a suite of policies to encourage significant improvement and eventual protection of the environment and human health. Students might double major in EVST and any of the disciplines mentioned above, including Ethics, Politics, and Economics (EPE) to deepen their understanding of environmental policy. Read more about this concentration here.

Suggested Concentration Courses

Food & Agriculture (BA and BS)

Description | The creation of our global food supply is essential for human life and health, yet it takes a significant toll on the environment, and contributes substantially to climate change.  Dietary patterns can sustain health or increase the risks of disease.  Many illnesses are associated with specific dietary patterns, including several forms of cancer, cardiovascular diseases, malnutrition & starvation, food allergies & intolerances, diet and endocrine disruption, digestive disorders such as celiac disease, diabetes, obesity, and chronic respiratory illnesses. Read more about Food & Agriculture here.

Suggested Concentration Courses

Human Health & the Environment (BA and BS)

Description | Many of the world’s most debilitating illnesses such as cancers, cardiovascular diseases, respiratory diseases, and microbial diseases are strongly associated with the quality of air, water, food, and indoor environments.  The majority of these debilitating and costly illnesses are preventable via strategic management of microbial and infectious diseases, reducing air pollution both outside and indoors, avoidance of hazardous chemicals such as metals, solvents, tobacco products and pesticides, water filtration, or shifting dietary patterns to reduce intake of livestock products, saturated fats, salt, sugars, and alcohol.  Collectively this means that prevention of many diseases and premature mortality is possible.  Students who have chosen this concentration have been admitted to some of the nation’s best medical schools.  Courses in this concentration also provide an opportunity to fulfill the requirements of the Global Health Studies Multidisciplinary Academic Program. Read more about this concentration here.

Suggested Concentration Courses

Sustainability & Natural Resources (BA and BS)

Description | Students explore the scientific foundations of sustainability relative to natural resources, environmental quality, and human health.   Students normally examine underlying scientific knowledge about resource abundance, distribution, rates of increase and depletion, as well as the social arrangements by which we extract, exploit, exhaust, consume, or conserve natural resources and the material products into which they are converted.  The study of sustainability is often grounded in systems theory, is interdisciplinary, and employs technical, scientific, historical, political, and economic modes of analysis.  Students might apply the sustainability concept to natural resources individually such as agriculture, soils, food, forestry, fisheries, water, energy sources, wildlife, parks and protected areas, biological diversity, visual resources, or human health.  Students may also consider how to manage conflicts over use or extraction rights from regions such as forests, parks, watersheds, grasslands, or marine reserves.  Sustainability may also be studied as a philosophy, a survival instinct, or a social movement.

Suggested Concentration Courses

Urban Environments (BA and BS)

Description | Students who choose this concentration have examined environmental, climate, energy, and health effects of increasing urbanization. Growing population size and densities along with immigration from rural communities or foreign nations can pressure available resources, overwhelm institutional resources such as water, food, and energy supplies, while increasing pollution and waste. Normally inadequate infrastructure such as housing, educational facilities, transit, police, fire, and waste disposal together threaten health, safety and welfare.  Poor air quality in urban environments is often caused by unrestricted vehicular traffic, limited public transit, open burning of cooking and heating fuels, nearby fossil fuel consuming power plants, and industrial emissions.  These combine to create significant threats to health. More information about the Urban Environments concentration can be found here.

Suggested Concentration Courses

Self Defined (BA and BS)

Description | Students who wish to define their own concentration within EVST have the option to do so.  Students should make an appointment with the DUS to discuss their concentration as soon as possible after admission to the major.  The DUS will review and approve courses that are relevant to the student’s concentration.

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