Program Requirements and Opportunities

Published annually, the Course Catalog sets out the requirements of the academic programs--the majors, minors, and concentrations. Each Bryn Mawr student must declare a major before the end of the sophomore year. Students may also declare a minor or a concentration, but neither is required for the A.B. degree. Students must comply with the requirements published in the Course Catalog at the time when they declare the major, minor and/or concentration.

The Course Catalog also sets out the College requirements. Students must comply with the College requirements published at the time they enter Bryn Mawr College.

For more information, visit the Catalog Homepage to view the current content. To view Catalogs from previous academic years, visit the Catalog Archives page.

Now and over the coming decades, human societies face daunting environmental challenges. Energy consumption is expected to rise sharply while even present-day carbon emissions intensify global warming, threatening the finely balanced marine and terrestrial ecosystems upon which we rely for food, water and shelter. Global population pressure and sea-level rise, along with weather extremes, will create climate refugees and resource confiicts on an unprecedented scale. Responding to these cascading environmental, socioeconomic, and political challenges will require all the creativity, expertise and compassion we can muster, but neither scientific arguments nor social appeals have succeeded in mobilizing adequate action. We must find rational, holistic and ethically grounded ways to focus intellectual attention on the human-nature nexus. This is an essential endeavor of the field of Environmental Studies (ENVS).

Guided by a commitment to addressing challenges on multiple scales–by a holistic vision of humans in the environment, and by the particular problem at hand–ENVS scholars, educators and activists utilize a variety of methods and tools, which are represented in college curricula in many different ways. Students have the opportunity to pursue a Major in Environmental Studies through a curricular collaboration between Bryn Mawr and Haverford Colleges, or pursue a Minor in Environmental Studies to complement another major. The Bi-College ENVS Department is dedicated to preparing students who have the environmental expertise needed for the world they will inherit.

The Bi-College ENVS Major combines the strengths of our two liberal arts campuses to create an interdisciplinary program that teaches students to synthesize diverse disciplinary knowledge and approaches, and to communicate effectively across disciplinary boundaries as they engage with environmental issues. In addressing these issues, ENVS students apply critical thinking and analytical skills within a holistic, systems framework that includes social justice as an essential component.

The ENVS introductory course offers in-depth investigation of the theoretical and applied foundations of the study of the environment from all divisions. The major incorporates praxis community-based learning and core courses that examine the theoretical and empirical approaches that the natural sciences, social sciences, arts and humanities bring to local and global environmental questions. In addition, ENVS majors pursue an individually selected area of environmental expertise, a focus area, in order to gain a depth of knowledge, and to develop a sense of their own agency in addressing what most concerns them. To support these learning goals, the ENVS program provides opportunities for independent and collaborative research, including co-curricular learning, via local, national and international internships and opportunities to study abroad.

Haverford, Bryn Mawr, and Swarthmore also offer an interdisciplinary Tri-College (Tri-Co) Environmental Studies (ENVS) Minor, involving departments and faculty on all three campuses from the natural sciences, engineering, mathematics, the humanities, and the arts. The Tri-Co ENVS Minor brings together students and faculty to explore interactions among earth systems, human societies, and local and global environments.

Both the Bi-Co ENVS Major and the Tri-Co ENVS Minor cultivate in students the capacity to identify and confront key environmental issues through a blend of multiple disciplines, encompassing historical, cultural, economic, political, scientific, and ethical modes of inquiry.

To declare the ENVS Major or Minor, students should contact the Environmental Studies chair or advisor at their home campus.

Learning Goals

The Bi-Co Environmental Studies major is an interdisciplinary program that teaches students to synthesize diverse disciplinary knowledge and approaches, and to communicate effectively across disciplinary boundaries as they engage with environmental issues. Students graduating with the ENVS major are adept at applying diverse modes of analysis to solve problems across a wide array of interconnected social and environmental challenges.

Environmental Studies students apply critical thinking and analytical skills within a holistic, systems framework that includes the following specific goals:

  • Cultivation of environmental literacies, and the ability to read, analyze, and create products from the environmental social sciences, natural sciences, and humanities.
  • Experience with praxis activities in the context of intellectual work, with particular emphasis on experience working with community groups in a socially just and participatory framework.
  • Development and refining of written and oral communication skills for a variety of academic and non-academic audiences.
  • Knowledge of, and the ability to articulate, the role of different divisions of intellectual inquiry in environmental issues.
  • An understanding of the diverse modes of environmental theory, and experience translating complex environmental data into actionable conclusions or revised theory.


There are two curricular pathways through Environmental Studies: the ENVS Major and ENVS Minor.

ENVS Major (Bi-Co)

The ENVS Major curriculum is designed to maintain a balance between cultivating broad environmental literacies and developing a focused area of expertise with associated skills. This program includes core classes and a self-designed “focus area” that can be completed with coursework from Haverford, Bryn Mawr, and Swarthmore.

ENVS Minor (Tri-Co)

The ENVS Minor curriculum is designed to complement any major at Haverford, Bryn Mawr or Swarthmore, pending approval of the student’s coursework plan by the home department and the home-campus ENVS director. 

Major Requirements

Students are required to take a minimum of 11 courses in the Environmental Studies major.

I. Core courses (6 credits)

Six required courses are in the core program, which consists of:

  • ENVS 101: Case Studies in Environmental Issues
  • ENVS 201: Laboratory in Environmental Sciences
  • ENVS 202: Environmental Social Sciences
  • ENVS 203: Environmental Humanities
  • ENVS 204: Place, People, and Praxis in Environmental Studies
  • ENVS 397: Environmental Studies Senior Capstone (during the fall or spring semester of the senior year)

Students interested in pursuing an ENVS major are strongly encouraged to take ENVS 101 during their first year of study.

ENVS 101 and 397 are each offered two times per year: once at Haverford and once at Bryn Mawr, frequently in alternate semesters. Students are welcome to take these courses on either campus.

II. Electives, including focus areas (5 credits)

In addition to the core courses, students must take five electives for the ENVS major. A wide variety of environmentally themed courses may serve as ENVS electives, but the five elective courses must fulfill the following requirements:

  • At least three elective courses must articulate a coherent intellectual or thematic focus (“focus area”) that students develop in consultation with their ENVS advisor;
  • A minimum of one course must come from each of two broad divisional groups: Natural sciences, mathematics, and engineering; Social sciences, humanities, and arts.
  • At least two elective courses must be taken at the 300-level or equivalent.

III. Focus area

The possibilities of a focus area are many. A student’s focus area may be organized by a specific perspective on the study of the environment, a particular interdisciplinary focus, or even a geographic region. Focus areas are designed in consultation with an ENVS advisor. Early planning for the ENVS major allows students to begin satisfying prerequisites for advanced focus area courses.

Sample focus area topics include, but are not limited to: Environment and Society, Environmental Policy, Earth Systems, Environmental Modeling, Environmental Art and Technology, and Environment in East Asia.

Courses taken as ENVS major electives need not be prefixed with “ENVS” in the course catalog. Advanced courses with appropriate thematic content offered by any program, from Africana Studies, through Mathematics, to Visual Studies, may be counted.

Upon declaration of the ENVS major, the coursework plan must be approved by a major advisor on the student’s home campus. Courses approved for the Environmental Studies Major at Swarthmore can be used to satisfy Bi-Co ENVS requirements contingent upon major advisor approval.

Courses taken while studying abroad or off-campus may be approved for the ENVS major by the major advisor in consultation with Bi-Co ENVS Department faculty.


ENVS 101: Case Studies in Environmental Issues

The course offers a cross-disciplinary introduction to environmental studies. Tracing an arc from historical analysis to practical engagement, distinctive approaches to key categories of environmental inquiry are presented: political ecology, earth science, energy, economics, public health, ecological design, sustainability, public policy, and environmental ethics. Basic concepts, such as thermodynamics, biodiversity, cost-benefit analysis, the commons, and situational ethics, are variously defined and employed within specific explorations of environmental challenges in the modern world. No divisional credit is awarded for this course at Haverford nor does the course satisfy any of the Bryn Mawr approaches to inquiry.

ENVS 201: Laboratory in Environmental Science

This course introduces students to fundamental principles and practices of the environmental natural sciences. Methods such as hypothesis development and testing, experimental design, data acquisition and analysis, and quantitative modeling are employed to scientifically address an environmental question, problem or issue. Topics vary. Hands-on lab work or field experiences are included. Pre-requisite: ENVS 101. Scientific Investigation (SI); Natural Science (NA).

ENVS 202: Environment and Society

This course explores the intersections of natural and built environments with diverse societies. Students encounter conceptual and analytical tools of the social sciences to inform environmental responses at individual, collective, and institutional levels. Environmental issues broadly understood are not merely problems for society, but stem from cultural patterns and how societies are organized. Social origins of environmental problems across local to global situations are surveyed. This class draws from environmental sociology, planning, geography, political theory, and environmental health and justice. Learning to apply social concepts to environments using multiple perspectives is a core component of the course. Focused segments cover environmental justice, Indigenous peoples' environmentalisms, and social movements of the Global Souths. Pre-requisite: ENVS 101. Cross-Cultural Analysis (CC), Writing Attentive. Quantitative Readiness Required (QR).

ENVS 203: Environmental Humanities

Bringing the traditional focus of the humanities–questions of meaning, value, ethics, justice and the politics of knowledge production–into environmental domains calls for a radical reworking of a great deal of what we think we know about ourselves and our fields of inquiry. Inhabiting the difficult space of simultaneous critique and action, this course re-imagines the questions and approaches of the humanities, asking how our accumulated knowledge and practice might be refashioned to meet current environmental challenges. We draw on a range of texts and films, and engage in a range of critical and creative practices of our own. Pre-requisite: ENVS 101. Critical Interpretation (CI); Cross-Cultural Analysis (CC). Writing in the major/Writing Attentive.

ENVS 204: Place, People and Praxis in Environmental Studies

This course offers a cross-disciplinary introduction to community-based learning. Working with local community groups, students will learn the fundamental skills of praxis work applied to environmental issues within an inquiry-based framework. Pre-requisite: ENVS 202 or ENVS 203. Course does not meet an approach.

ENVS 275: Independent Research in Environmental Studies

Independent research, scholarship, or Praxis performed under the supervision of an Environmental Studies faculty member. Requires permission of instructor. Open to second and third year students only. Course does not meet an approach.

ENVS 350: Advanced Topics in Environmental Studies

This course offers an in-depth view of a special topic related to the environment. Content and pre-requisites vary; see online descriptions for currently offered sections.

ENVS 397: Environmental Studies Senior Capstone

The senior project experience consists of participation in ENVS 397, the one-semester collaborative senior capstone. Under the direction of a faculty instructor, ENVS seniors actively engage in environmental problem solving. Students bring the perspectives and skills gained from their ENVS focus area and preparatory work in the major to collaborate on interdisciplinary projects. Pre-requisite: Open to senior ENVS majors only, or with permission of the instructor and ENVS Director.

ENVS 399: Environmental Studies Advanced Capstone^

This course is for students who arrange additional time to continue work on a senior projects in preparation for performance, presentation, or other exhibition. Requires instructor permission. Up to one half credit.

^Offered as staffing and student demand permits.

Minor Requirements

The Tri-Co ENVS Minor consists of six courses, including an introductory course. Students may complete the introductory course at any of the three campuses. The six required courses are:

  • A required introductory course to be taken prior to the senior year. This may be ENVS 101 at Haverford or Bryn Mawr or the parallel course at Swarthmore (ENVS 001). Any one of these courses satisfies the requirement, and students may take no more than one such course for credit toward the minor.
  • Four elective course credits from approved lists of core and cognate courses, including two credits in each of the two categories below. Students may use no more than one cognate course credit for each category. (See the ENVS website for course lists and more about core and cognate courses.) No more than one of these four course credits may be in the student’s major.

Environmental Science, Engineering, and Math: courses that build understanding and knowledge of scientific methods and theories, and explore how these can be applied in identifying and addressing environmental challenges. At least one of the courses in this category must have a laboratory component.

Environmental Social Sciences, Humanities, and Arts: courses that build understanding and knowledge of social and political structures as well as ethical considerations, and how these inform our individual and collective responses to environmental challenges.

  • An advanced elective in Environmental Studies (300-level or its equivalent at Swarthmore) that can be from either category.

ENVS 397 is no longer required or recommended for the ENVS Minor.

Students interested in the ENVS Minor should plan their course schedule with their home-campus Director of Environmental Studies in consultation with their major advisor. In choosing electives, students should aim to include mostly intermediate or advanced courses.

Affiliated Programs

For information about faculty and courses in Environmental Studies at Swarthmore, visit the websites of that program.

Concentrations and Interdisciplinary Minors

Environmental Studies contributes to the following concentrations and interdisciplinary minors:

  • Health Studies
  • Peace, Justice, and Human Rights
  • Visual Studies

Study Abroad

The Bi-Co ENVS Department strongly encourages students to study abroad if it fits with their career plans. Students planning to major or minor in ENVS may receive course credit by participation in programs which offer environmental content, including but not limited to programs in Australia, Costa Rica, Denmark, Ecuador, Germany, Iceland, Scotland and South Africa. Students may receive course credit for elective courses, at the equivalent of the 200 level or above, that contribute to the major’s “focus area” or the four non-core classes in the ENVS minor. Students majoring in ENVS are required to take ENVS 101 and ENVS 397 at Haverford, Bryn Mawr, or Swarthmore and strongly recommended to take the four 200-level core courses within the Bi-Co.



Contact Us

Bi-Co Environmental Studies

Chair for AY 2022-23, Bryn Mawr Point of Contact, Bi-Co Environmental Studies
Don Barber, Associate Professor of Environmental Studies and Geology, on the Harold Alderfer Chair in Environmental Studies, Bryn Mawr College | 610-526-5110

Haverford Point of Contact, Bi-Co Environmental Studies
Jon Wilson, Associate Professor of Environmental Studies, Haverford College

Temporary contact for Environmental Studies:
Kim O'Connell
Park Science 132