ENST Major and Minor

Climate change, urban sprawl, habitat loss, pollution, food and energy needs, and their understanding as issues of social justice and economic stability are among the most pressing problems facing contemporary societies. Environmental and urban patterns and processes operate at multiple scales involving natural and human causes and consequences that cannot be addressed within a single discipline. Students in Environmental and Urban Studies will gain an understanding of the interconnected natural and urban realms, developing fluency with ideas such as sustainable development, walkable urbanism, environmental justice, or political ecology, along with the opportunities and challenges they present.

The Environmental and Urban Studies major and minor programs are designed to motivate a deeper theoretical understanding of cities and nature as develop practical strength in addressing urban and environmental challenges. Students begin the program through foundational courses focused on frameworks, theories and models of human-environment relationships, progress toward interdisciplinary methodological applications to topic-based experiential learning. The major program culminates in a BA Thesis or BA Capstone focused on addressing a critical urban environmental issue.

    Students will choose the Environmental Track or the Urban Track as their course of study. A student interested in urban environmental topics can design a program of study through either track.

    • The Environmental Track of the major emphasizes critical thinking and rigorous applications to the study of the environment through the social sciences and humanities. Central concepts to this track include human behavior and its relationship to the environment, moral and ethical dimensions of environmental preservation and conservation, the evolution of environmental discourse, communications, and media, and cultural and historical constructions of nature and the human. The track provides emphases in environmental economics and policy, law and politics, sustainable development, human ecology, environmental ethics and justice, and the social and humanistic study of climate change.
    • The Urban Track of the major emphasizes perspectives on human interaction with the urban, built environment. The track encourages a spatial and place-based urban perspective, meaning that built form and environmental context provide the conceptual core through which the social, economic, and political understanding of urbanism is pursued. The track approaches the nature, dynamics, and human experience of cities by capitalizing on the growth of interest in urban design, urban planning, and emerging urban science.

    All students in the major and minor program must take the foundational sequence in Environmental and Urban Studies: 

    These courses provide an overview of contemporary environmental issues and the theoretical and empirical approaches used to understand and address them. Students are encouraged to take these courses in their 2nd or early in their 3rd year. Students must also take a series of methodological and elective course requirements depending on their thematic track.

    Honors: In addition to a minimum GPA 3.25 overall, 3.7 in the major, students must complete the BA Thesis track and receive a grade of A in ENST 29802: BA Colloquium II, which includes the overall thesis grade, to receive program honors. 

    Grading: Students who are majoring or minoring in Environmental and Urban Studies must receive quality grades in courses taken to meet the requirements of the program.  

    The full course requirements for the major and minor can be found on the Environmental and Urban Studies College Catalog page.

    Starting in AY 2022/23, all students majoring in ENST will complete either a BA Thesis or BA Capstone in their 4th year. The BA Thesis is required for any student pursuing honors in the major, while all other students must complete either the BA Thesis or BA Capstone. The changes do not apply to students who are in their 4th year in AY 2021/22. 

    Please visit the Thesis/Capstone page full details, requirements and important deadlines.

    Students are required to participate in an internship, field study or research assistantship with significant links to their program of study. Activities that fulfill the internship requirement include summer or academic year internships of varying lengths, research assistantships, fellowships or field studies with faculty or other academic staff, participation in working groups, completion of a Chicago Studies Quarter or the ENST Calumet Quarter, or other sustained engagements relating to the ENST program. Participation in recognized student organizations, while encouraged, do not count towards the internship requirement.  

    Students must complete the internship evaluation form prior to 2nd week of Spring Quarter in the year they plan to graduate. 

    Students interested in declaring the major should meet with the program administrator or program director to discuss their plan and periodically to assess their progress in the major or minor. Students should also meet with a graduate student preceptor in their 3rd year to discuss the BA Thesis. Visit the PGE office hours page to make an appointment. 

    Students majoring/minoring in ENST must complete all program requirements. Exceptions will be made only in extenuating circumstances and must be requested via the general College petition form.

    All petitions related to ENST requirements must be submitted to Karen Martin (kmartin93@uchicago.edu) and will be reviewed during the next quarterly window, Petitions will returned within one week of the quarterly window deadline.

    Visit the Petition and Forms page for all forms and details.

    Quarterly Program Petition Deadlines*:

    • Friday of 2nd week by 11:59pm CT
    • Friday of 8th week by 11:59pm CT

    *No petitions will be reviewed outside of these quarterly windows.