FAQs for Environmental Studies Prospective Students


Why are there so many changes to the majors offered under the new Environmental Studies Department?

In 2019, the Environmental Studies department assessed its four primary majors: Environmental Studies, Environmental Policy, Geography, and Environmental Education. We found that while most students were doing well, some were having trouble accessing courses. Others were picking and choosing from such a large set of electives that they were missing out on developing a learning community with a cohort of other students.

Starting Fall 2021, we will take a holistic approach to these majors. All students will take a robust set of foundation and core knowledge area courses. This set of shared coursework provides key knowledge, skills and experiences that will help students achieve many of their post-graduation goals. Students will then specialize in one of six emphases. Some of these emphases mirror popular majors we offered in the last; two are brand new emphases in areas students have consistently requested. Environmental Studies majors in the College of the Environment Extension program will be able to choose from three emphases, giving them a choice of specialization for the very first time. 

We are excited about these changes! We think the new approach will increase coherence and interdisciplinarity of every students’ studies, reduce waitlists, and help you all form a stronger learning community. We can’t wait to teach and learn together with you!

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 AY 2021-2022 University Catalog:

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

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.

What if I am an Environmental Studies pre-major?

If you are already an Environmental Studies pre-major and were considering the Environmental Studies, Environmental Education, Geography, or Environmental Policy degrees, we hope that you will be excited about the new Environmental Studies curriculum in the 2021-2022 catalog! We hope you will choose one of the new degrees there. However, if your specific circumstances that make it important or necessary to obtain a degree in the 2020-2021 catalog, you will be allowed to do so. You can explore your options with a College of the Environment professional adviser at your next advising appointment. There is no rush or need to worry.

I am a College of the Environment pre-major. How do I apply to one of the Environmental Studies degree programs, including the new degrees offered Fall 2021?

Starting in Fall 2021, pre-majors may apply for one of the new Environmental Studies majors. Pre-majors must complete ENVS 201, ENVS 203, and ENVS 204 with a C- or better before applying.

To apply, students will submit an application that includes brief answers to the following questions:

  • Which depth and specialization area are you selecting? 
  • What excites you about the depth and specialization you are selecting? 
  • What relevant coursework have you completed?
  • How will your chosen depth and specialization area (emphasis or minor) help you achieve your post-graduation career goals?
  • OPTIONAL: Are there perspectives or experiences you can bring to strengthen and diversify the field of environmental studies? 
  • OPTIONAL: Do you feel that your academic transcript accurately reflects your abilities as a student? Please explain.

The application can be found on our environmental studies major application page. Applications are accepted during fall, winter, and spring quarters and must be received by 5 p.m. on October 6 (for winter quarter admission), January 15 (for spring quarter admission), or April 18 (for summer or fall quarter admission). If the deadline falls on a weekend, applications are due the following Monday.

If you have any questions, please contact a professional advisor at the College of the Environment Student Support office in Environmental Studies Building 539, or call (360) 650-2817

Additional questions?

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