Environmental Studies and Sustainability
Learning constructive solutions to environmental problems
"By its very nature, ecological literacy demands expansive, synthetic inquiry rather than narrow specialization – a searching for connections and wholes, rather than isolated parts."
The Environmental Studies and Sustainability Program centers on education in natural systems and processes of the Earth, and on the role of humans who both depend on and influence these systems and processes. The aim is to develop compassionate, informed, and responsible citizens who are prepared to offer constructive solutions to environmental problems, and to help heal relationships between people and nature.
The Program advances understanding across many disciplines, including the biological, physical, and social sciences and the humanities. Students use these insights to illuminate the interrelationships between human and non-human realms, meanwhile learning specific skills in critical thinking, in field and laboratory methods, and in oral and written communication. Faculty encourage students to develop a philosophical understanding of, and ethical stance regarding, human-nature interactions and relationships. Students develop the ability to apply their knowledge to real-world situations to prepare them for further education and meaningful employment.
Ecological literacy forms an essential part of the foundation of any Environmental Studies and Sustainability Competence – indeed, for all studies at Prescott College. It is the understanding of interrelatedness of all life – human and non-human – in multiple contexts: evolution, ecology, and thermodynamics, along with history, politics, and cultural perspectives. By its very nature, ecological literacy demands expansive, synthetic inquiry rather than narrow specialization – a searching for connections and wholes, rather than isolated parts. Ecology weaves together the earth and life sciences, providing vocabulary for studies of human society and human nature, as well as many of the concepts these studies address (or need to address).
Program courses offer one way to develop ecological literacy. Through activities inside and outside of the classroom, and through direct experience with nature, informed by reading and interaction with others, students advance their literacy throughout their time at the College.
Environmental Studies and Sustainability Competences
We offer one Competence, "Environmental Studies and Sustainability." Although it is not required, you may choose an emphasis within your ESS Competence. Whether you do a general Environmental Studies and Sustainability Competence, choose to follow the guidelines of one of the emphases, or create your own competence (possibly interdisciplinary), the same level of rigor applies. The most common emphases in ESS are:
- Bachelor of Science
- Conservation Biology
- Earth Science
- Ecological Design
- Environmental Education
- Marine Studies
Natural History and Ecology
(includes research-based field biology and field ecology as well as interpretation)
Bridging Environmental Studies and Sustainability with Other Program Areas
Students can consider formulating competences that bridge Environmental Studies and Sustainability with other realms of study. In some cases, formalized bridges already exist (ESS and Adventure Education); in others it is up to the student and the Individual Graduation Committee to develop a coherent, meaningful program. For example, students often bridge ESS and Cultural and Regional Studies (as in natural and cultural studies of a particular country or region, or emphasis in Human Ecology) or Arts & Letters (for example, interpreting landscapes with art, photography, or writing).
To obtain a Competence in Environmental Studies and Sustainability, you must satisfy your Independent Graduation Committee (IGC) that you have a coherent, balanced program with sufficient depth and breadth to prepare you for professional work in your field. You should fulfill the following minimum requirements:
- Complete at least one course in each of the four distribution areas
- Take one ecology course, either the 4-credit Concepts of Ecology course or the 8-credit Natural History and Ecology of the Southwest course (see specific emphases for recommendations).
- Complete 16 courses in the competence area, with a minimum of 8 Upper Division courses, including a Senior Project.
- Complete the College-wide Writing Certification requirements.
- Complete the College-wide Mathematics Certification
- Demonstrate, through your course work and experience, a foundation in the philosophies, theories, methods, and history of your area of study.
- Demonstrate skills in oral communication.
- Demonstrate skills in computer use and in acquiring and evaluating resources/reference materials.
- Demonstrate cultural sensitivity through experience or by taking courses with multi-cultural perspectives.
Ecological literacy is an essential part of the foundation on which any Environmental Studies and Sustainability Competence should be built. Ecological literacy is the understanding of interrelatedness of all life—human and non-human—in the context of evolution, ecology, and thermodynamics, as well as in the context of historical, political, and cultural perspectives.
By its very nature, ecological literacy demands expansive, synthetic inquiry rather than narrow specialization--a searching for connections and wholes, rather than isolated parts.
Ecology weaves together the earth sciences and the life sciences and provides vocabulary and many of the concepts that are addressed or need addressing in studies of human society and human nature. It is important to emphasize that taking courses is only one way of developing literacy—we expect you to continue developing your ecological literacy through many activities both inside and outside of the classroom throughout your time at Prescott College. Direct experience with nature, informed by reading and interaction with others, can also enhance ecological literacy.
As one of the first steps in developing ecological literacy, students must take an appropriate course in ecology. For some ESS emphases, the 8-credit Natural History and Ecology of the Southwest course (or equivalent) is recommended. For other emphases, either the 8-credit course or Concepts of Ecology may be taken. Consult with your IGC to ascertain which course best fits your study plan.
Balancing experience – Distribution courses
Nature recognizes no hard boundaries between systems or neatly packaged academic disciplines. Nevertheless, we can usefully divide our educational explorations into four areas:
Earth and Physical Sciences
When seeking a Competence in Environmental Studies and Sustainability, we require you to design a program that includes all four areas and examines the interactions among them. As a starting point for pursuing a balanced Environmental Studies and Sustainability competence, you take at least one course from each of the following four areas (referred to as distribution courses). The courses listed below are examples only; others may suffice if approved by your IGC. Note that the distribution courses may also fulfill a focus area requirement (for example, in the Earth Sciences emphasis, one of the required six Earth Sciences Core Courses will cover the Earth Sciences distribution requirement).
To see a list of appropriate courses for each category, see below.
Faculty teaching Environmental Studies and Sustainability Courses are a diverse and dedicated group of colleagues, each contributing to the mission of the program and the college through active engagement in some combination of teaching, fieldwork, research, the arts, writing, community outreach, and educational administration. Students develop close relationships with their professors and have unparalleled opportunities to participate in professional-level environmental studies work.
Environmental Studies & Sustainability Advising Document
Examples of Environmental Studies Distribution Courses
Earth and Physical Sciences
Earth Sciences, Introduction to (LD)
Geology of Arizona (LD)
Geologic Evolution of the Southwest (LD)
Geomorphology, Topics in (UD)
Soil Sciences, Introduction to (LD)
Weather and Climate (LD)
Animal Behavior (UD)
Animal Biology (LD)
Biological Principles (LD)
Human Ecology, Introduction to (LD)
Marine Biology I (LD)
Organic Evolution (UD)
Ornithology, Introduction to (LD)
Environmental Ethics (UD)
Ecopsychology, Introduction to (LD)
Environmental Education: Theory (LD)
Nature and Psyche (UD)
New Religious Paradigms (LD)
Philosophies of Interpretive Naturalists (UD)
Philosophy: Making Ethical Decisions (LD)
Women’s Wisdom and Nature (LD)
World Religions I or II (LD)
American Government: The Political Game (LD)
Changing World Order (LD)
Ecological Economics, Principles of (LD)
Environmental Policy, Topics in (UD)
Environmental Politics (UD)
Global Development Issues and Energy Economics (LD)
Human Rights Seminar (LD)
Integrating Social and Ecological Perspectives (UD)
Land Stewards (LD/UD)
Law and Social Change (LD)
Marine Conservation III (UD)
Peace Systems (LD)
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