The Environmental Studies major and minor equip students with the knowledge, tools, and opportunities to engage with environmental issues spawned from the dynamics of climate change, ecological degradation, globalization, economic activity, and societal values.
The program focuses on how humans interact with their environment, and how science is applied to shape policy decisions at local, regional, and global levels. It explores sustainability, food systems, diversity and inclusion, among other topics, and the ways in which these intersect with environmental issues. Through this study, students are prepared to become active environmental advocates and stewards.
Environmental Studies (EVST) and Environmental Science (ENVS) are distinct, but related programs. Both programs start with an introductory course in environmental studies and end with a course in research methods and a professional capstone. Both are interdisciplinary programs that focus on building knowledge and skills in the Natural/Physical Sciences, Social Sciences, Humanities, and Arts. However, while these content areas exist in both majors, the ENVS major prescribes significantly more physical science, natural science, and computational science content than does the EVST major.
More information about the Environmental Studies Program can be found in the Course Catalog.
Beyond the Classroom
With its emphasis on environmental advocacy and applications of science to guide policy development, the EVST program includes a broad range of opportunities for students to apply their classroom learning through internships and research experiences, both on and off campus. Students have worked with the Matador Wildlife Management Area in Central Texas, and with Jackson Hole Conservation Alliance in Wyoming. Regionally, students have interned with the Southwestern PA Environmental Health Project in Canonsburg, Pa.; Civil & Environmental Consultants in Pittsburgh, Pa.; the Washington County Conservation District; the City of Pittsburgh’s Sustainability Office; and the Allegheny County Parks Department.
Students have also designed and participated in environmental research and development projects in Fiji, Costa Rica, Ecuador, South Africa, India, and Europe with support from the Mazingira Fund. The Luce Initiative on Asian Studies and the Environment (LIASE) Program supports W&J students and faculty in integrated, innovative projects and programs that promote Asian studies within the context of environmental studies.
On campus, students like Brandon Marcucci ’21 are getting hands-on experience in the field, too. Brandon is the W&J Arboretum Information Specialist and has also joined Dr. Jason Kilgore in his research in the Allegheny National Forest on the invasive Emerald Ash Borer. He has interned with Widmer Engineering, assisting with MS4 stormwater outfall inspections. Students have also worked with Dr. Robert East on various research projects, including: Sustainable soil management at the Rodale Institute, conservation practices on USDA demonstration farms around Washington County, environmental justice issues with the local branch of the NAACP, and education/advocacy with the Center for Coalfield Justice.
ENVS majors and EVST majors complete their programs with a capstone presentation. The 2020 on-campus presentations included a wide variety of topics, and you can view them here.
The EVST program allows students the flexibility to minor or double major in another program of their choosing, such as political science, communications, a language major, or numerous other areas and it leads to career success. W&J alumni work in the areas of environmental consulting, environmental law or policy making, urban planning and sustainability, environmental advocacy, education, and natural resource management.
One of those alumni is Adam Toomey ’12, a fire ecologist for the Bureau of Land Management in Winnemucca, NV. He is responsible for managing fire use and hazardous fuels to rehabilitate and sustain healthy and functioning landscapes across 11 million acres of northern Nevada. A large portion of his work focuses on rehabilitating lands negatively impacted by wildfires.
Katelyn Cerciello ’19 is also putting her EVST background to use. She was recently hired by TruHorizon Environmental Solutions, and her work supports North American energy, construction and industrial markets with solutions for noise control, stormwater management, erosion prevention, sediment control and compliance data management.