Core Courses

 "This course had a huge impact on my education and beyond.  It's hard to put into words exactly how, and I'm sure that as the months and years progress, I'll understand even more fully that this course has taught me more than I know." -- Middlebury School of the Environment alumnus

Student work on core classes in environmental studies.

We offer two tracks of study, each designed for students with different levels of previous college-level coursework in environmental studies.  Each track includes two core courses, one that is a project-based practicum and one that provides an interdisciplinary perspective on a complex issue:

Systems Thinking track, designed for students with limited previous college-level environmental coursework

  1. Systems Thinking Practicum
  2. Environmental Analysis: Energy Futures

Students in the understanding place environmental science course.
Sustainability track
, designed for students with more-than-just limited previous college-level environmental coursework

  1. Sustainability Practicum
  2. Understanding Place

Each student enrolls in one of these two tracks plus one elective, for a total of three courses.

Course Descriptions

Systems Thinking Practicum

System Thinking core course environmental studiesThe world can be thought of as a set of inter-related systems, or collections of parts that interact with one another to create a larger pattern of behavior.  A farm is a system, as are the cars in a parking lot, a nation’s energy grid, or the factors that influence global climate.  Being able to describe how systems work is the first step to identifying how to influence their behavior, either to improve their performance (such as increase food production) or minimize their failures (such as decrease water pollution).  In this practicum, students will learn the fundamentals of systems thinking and apply their skills in analyzing specific problems, and both proposing and promoting solutions. Instructor: Curt Gervich. Credit: 1 Unit (3 semester-hours).

Environmental Analysis: Energy Futures

Environmental Analysis environmental scienceUsing a case study method, students in this course will explore deeply the critical environmental issue of society’s energy future through science, policy, and the humanities.  Students will come away from this course with a solid background in both how to approach a holistic understanding of environmental issues and the importance of interdisciplinary thinking in shaping environmental solutions. Instructor: Steve Trombulak and Joan Grossman. Credit: 1 Unit (3 semester-hours).

Sustainability Practicum

Sustainability Practicum environmental studies core classThis course will explore, through reading, discussion, and direct engagement, an issue associated with sustainability, such as energy, food production, land management, and environmental justice. Using a case study approach to analyzing sustainability initiatives in the local area, students will explore—and eventually practice—the process of advancing a project from inception to launch. This class will involve team-based research projects focused on identifying and analyzing solutions to real sustainability challenges confronted by government, business, or individuals. The course will emphasize training in critical leadership skills, including project management, team building and team leading, persuasive communication, networking, fundraising, conflict resolution, understanding diverse communication styles, human-centered design, and emotional intelligence.  Much of your work in this course will take place within small (3-5 students) research teams. Instructor: Steve Trombulak. Credit: 1 Unit (3 semester-hours).

See reports from previous courses.

Understanding Place

Understanding Place core course environmental studiesManifesting solutions to environmental challenges requires a deep understanding of “place,” by which we mean a sense of the history, culture, economy, and ecology of a location. Facing environmental challenges cannot be divorced from understanding either the people or the ecological realities of the location where the challenge is situated or from where the solution is to emerge. This is true everywhere, but it is best understood by focusing on a single place. This course will explore a specific place through both ecological and cultural narratives (in other words, through geography, history, biology, literature, geology, and political science) to understand how this place came to be in the condition it is today and how to improve conditions for both itself and the human communities associated with it. This course will involve use of the college’s science research facilities, GIS technology, and interviews with numerous people involved in the use and management of the selected location.  Instructors: Holly Peterson and Joseph Witt. Credit: 1 Unit (3 semester-hours). Understanding Place core course environmental studies