In the early twenty-first century, environmental challenges—including deforestation, climate change, pollution, water scarcity, habitat loss, and the food and energy needs of a rapidly urbanizing population—are among the most pressing issues facing the world. Many environmental processes operate at a global scale and create natural and human consequences that cannot be addressed solely from within a single area or discipline. At the same time, local and historical conditions are always at issue in addressing environmental processes, problems, and possibilities. The study of critical environmental issues requires both area specific knowledge and knowledge that crosses traditional academic and geographic boundaries. The Environmental and Urban Studies program allows students to address these issues through focused interdisciplinary coursework and research.

The undergraduate major emphasizes interdisciplinary approaches to environmental topics, incorporating models and methods from the humanities and social and natural sciences.

Students who are majoring in Environmental and Urban Studies are expected to build a foundation for studying environmental questions by completing basic course work both in the natural sciences and in quantitative analyses. The program draws on the existing strengths and interests of College faculty in a variety of disciplines and divisions. The curriculum is organized around required elements that include:

  1. An introductory set of courses (ENST 21201 and ENST 21301, can be taken in any order)
  2. Course work in three broadly conceived thematic tracks
  3. A thesis
  4. An internship or field studies component or the Chicago Studies certificate

The three thematic tracks are: 

  1. Environmental Economics and Policy
  2. Socio-natural Systems and Frameworks
  3. Urban Environment

Although students will design a program of study that will emphasize one of the tracks, course work from each will be included.

The major in Environmental and Urban Studies is coordinated by the Program on the Global Environment, which is housed in the Social Science Collegiate Division. Students in other fields of study may also complete a minor in Environmental and Urban Studies. Information follows the description of the major.

Students who wish to major or minor in Environmental and Urban Studies must declare with the College and then complete the program course of study form for their chosen course track. [Jump to Program Forms]

NOTE: The B.S. in Environmental Science that is offered by the Department of Geophysical Sciences may be more appropriate for students who intend to pursue postgraduate studies or professional careers in the natural sciences.