Core Courses

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 project-based practicum and one that provides an interdisciplinary perspective on a complex issue. Students enroll in one of two tracks plus one elective, for a total of three courses.

Systems Thinking Track (for students with limited college-level environmental course work)

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

Sustainability Track (for students with more college-level environmental course work)

  1. Sustainability Practicum
  2. Understanding Place

Course descriptions

Systems Thinking Practicum

The 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

Using 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

This 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).

Understanding Place

Manifesting 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 best understood by focusing first on a single place, and then examining that place in its global context. 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; its global connections on multiple temporal and spatial scales; 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).