FAQs for Environmental Studies Students

What are these new Environmental Studies emphases all about?

The new Environmental Studies major with six distinct emphases is an exciting development that allows the department to cater to increased student interest in GIS and social and environmental justice. Geography, policy, and environmental education will also continue to be core areas of course content.

All our majors will take an interdisciplinary and holistic approach to understanding human-environment systems and environmental challenges. No matter which emphasis you choose, you will take core classes in the natural sciences, social sciences, and humanities to prepare you to integrate knowledge from multiple fields of study. You will learn to analyze and interpret complex environmental data and communicate environmental information for diverse stakeholders.

To learn more about these new emphases, have a look at the University Catalog:

  • Education & Eco-Social Justice Emphasis, BA
  • Geography Emphasis, BA
  • Geographic Information Science Emphasis, BA
  • Policy, Politics, and Governance Emphasis, BA*
  • Justice & Community Resilience Emphasis, BA

*older Policy Emphasis in university catalog was renamed starting Fall 2022.

What do the new majors in Environmental Studies look like?

Revised ENVS Major (81-86 credits)

(no courses may be double counted)

Environmental Studies Foundations (27 credits)

  • ENVS 201: Understanding Environmental Data and Information
  • ENVS 203: Physical Geography
  • ENVS 204: Human Geography
  • ESCI 225: Beginning Ecology
  • ENVS 302: Navigating Environmental Studies (1 credit, new)
  • ENVS 303: Introduction to Environmental Studies
  • ENVS 305: Introduction to Environmental Studies II
  • ENVS 499A or ENVS 499A: Environmental Speaker Series

Environmental Studies Core Knowledge Areas (24-29 credits)

Environmental Data Analysis & Communication (6-8 credits)

The Biophysical Environment (8 credits)

Socio-ecological Systems (3-4 credits)

Social Justice and the Environment (4 credits)

Institutions and Environmental Governance (3-5 credits)

Depth and Specialization (22 credits)

Complete a minor in a related department/field (from provided list)


Pre-defined Emphasis (within and across current programs)

Culminating Experiences (8 credits)

Qualifying courses may include: 

  • ENVS 437: Faculty-Led Study Abroad
  • ENVS 498A: Senior Thesis
  • ENVS 498B: Internship
  • ENVS 498C: Senior Project
  • ENVS 498D: International Study

See the University Catalog for degree-specific details.

I can’t find my major in the Catalog anymore. What happened?

You will not find these majors listed below under the Environmental Studies Department programs in the AY 2021-2022 Western Washington University Catalog.  However, your major still exists and you may still graduate under it. To view your major and its degree requirements, look in the appropriate archived catalog from the year in which you declared your major (e.g. AY 2019-2020). A dropdown menu of catalogs from past years is available on the right side of the Catalog webpage.


I'm interested in environmental policy. What are my options?

Environmental policy is a fascinating field and the College of the Environment provides you with two options.

  • In the Environmental Studies department, you can major in Environmental Studies -- Policy, Politics, and Governance Emphasis, BA. Here, you'll learn about multiple approaches for bringing about societal change, including formal policy, social movements, formal and informal governance, and private sector processes.
  • The Urban and Environmental Planning & Policy Department also now offers an Environmental Policy BA. That degree is more focused on governmental policy processes and the implementation of existing legal frameworks for environmental protection.
  • If you are intrigued about environmental policy but already have a major, check out the Environmental Studies Department's Environmental Policy Minor.


Additional questions?

Contact the Department Chair, Rebekah Paci-Green at Rebekah-Paci-Green@wwu.edu