Environmental studies is concerned with the interactions between people and their environment, the effects the environment has on people, and the impact of human activities on the environment. The requirements are below, and please see the course catalog for more detailed information. All courses provide students with an appreciation of the interdisciplinary nature of environmental issues and include courses from the humanities, natural sciences, and social sciences. All courses are also designed to contribute in various ways to the College’s learning goals, and the Environmental Studies Department Learning Goals.

Environmental Studies Major

Environmental Studies is a cross-divisional department with natural science, social science, humanities, and interdisciplinary courses. Our students learn about the origins and impacts of, as well as potential solutions to, environmental issues by studying the behavior of natural systems and their interactions with political, economic, social, and cultural factors. Because the study of environmental concerns in inherently interdisciplinary, students develop a broad foundation of knowledge and integrative thinking skills in their time at Mount Holyoke College.  Environmental Studies majors graduate with the intellectual tools, practical skills, and breadth of understanding to confront environmental challenges of the present and future.

You may also print out the major/minor requirements form. For additional guidance, please see our selecting courses page. 


In the fall semester of their junior year, students must submit a paragraph to their advisor describing their plan for choosing their electives. This written plan can include specific courses or a general field of concentration that guides the selection of courses. Students should consider concentrating their electives in a particular area of Environmental Studies. For example, if students are interested in climate change policy, they can look for elective courses that help both to broaden and to focus their studies.

  • Students may take up to two 200- or 300- level courses off campus (study abroad, Five Colleges, etc.). Two additional 200- or 300- level courses may be taken within the Five Colleges. All off-campus courses are subject to advisor approval.
  • Students who declare an environmental studies major automatically fulfill the College's "outside the major" requirement.

Courses Approved as Core Intermediate Courses

Group A: Natural Sciences
At least one of these three courses is required:

  • Environmental Studies 200, Environmental Science or
  • Biology 223, Ecology or
  • Geology 203, Surface Processes

The second course may be one of the above or one of the following:

  • Biology 200, Introductory Biology II: How Organisms Develop
  • Biology 210, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • Biology 226, Evolution
  • Biology 236, Biology of Terrestrial Arthropods
  • Chemistry 201, General Chemistry II
  • Chemistry 202, Organic Chemistry I
  • Environmental Studies 222, Evolution of North American Landscapes
  • Geography 205, Mapping and Spatial Analysis
  • Geography 230, Environmental Soil Science
  • Geology 201, Rocks and Minerals
  • Geology 202, History of Earth
  • Geology 211, Uranium
  • Geology 227, Groundwater

Other courses may be counted toward this requirement with the approval of environmental studies advisor.

Group B: Humanities and Social Sciences
One of the following is required:

  • Economics 203, Environmental Economics or
  • Environmental Studies 210, Political Ecology or
  • Environmental Studies 241, Environmental Issues

Students may take more than one of the above courses and the remaining course(s) from the following list. Remember, at least one humanities course is required to fulfill the Group B requirement.
And two of the following:

  • Social Sciences:
    • Anthropology 216, Anthropology and Human Rights
    • Anthropology 245, Global Health and Humanitarianism
    • Economics 213, Economic Development: A Survey
    • Geography 202, Cities in a Global Context
    • Geography 204, Human Dimensions of Environmental Change
    • Geography 206, Political Geography
    • Geography 208, Global Movements, Migrations, Refugees, and Diasporas
    • Geography 210, GIS for the Social Sciences
    • Geography 215, Political Economy of the Middle East and North Africa
    • Geography 217, The African Environments
    • Politics 242, Oil and Water Don’t Mix: Geopolitics, Energy, and the Environment
  • Humanities:
    • Architectural Studies 201, Introduction to the Built Environment
    • Architectural Studies 225, Introduction to Architectural Design II: Principles of Environmental Design
    • Art History 216, Empire: The Art and Archaeology of the Roman Provinces
    • Art History 243AR, Architecture 1890-1990: ‘Building the Modern Environment’
    • Art History 290, Unearthing the Past: Great Archaeological Discoveries of the Ancient World
    • Art Studio 267, Papermaking with Local Plants
    • English 202, Introduction to Journalism
    • English/Environmental Studies 267, Reading and Writing in the World
    • Environmental Studies 240, The Value of Nature
    • History 206, African Cities: Dreams and Nightmares in the 20th Century
    • History 214, History of Global Inequality
    • History 235, Native American History Through 1865
    • History 257, Research Methods in History, Environmental Change, and Public Health
    • Latin American Studies 287, Rethinking (Under)Development in Latin America
    • Philosophy 260GB, Global Bioethics/Public Health

Other courses may be taken with approval of environmental studies advisor.

Environmental Studies Minor

The minor requires a minimum of 20 credits, beginning with Environmental Studies 100, Introduction to Environmental Studies. All students must take ENVST 100 (Introduction to Environmental Studies) and four additional courses at the 200- or 300-level related to Environmental Studies (one 300-level course is required). Two of these courses must be in the Natural Sciences (Group A), and two must be in the Social Sciences/ Humanities (Group B).

Courses in the same department as the student’s major may not be counted towards the minor in Environmental Studies. Courses that are approved for the minor are in the major/minor requirements form. 

Development Studies Nexus

Explore the relationship among history, politics, economics, and power that shape the world. The Development Studies Nexus track gives you the analytical skills to understand the complexities of global poverty, inequality, and injustice and strategies that state and non-state actors have used to improve the well-being of the people.

Five College Coastal and Marine Science

Faculty from both natural and social sciences teach courses in the The Five College Coastal and Marine Sciences Program. The disciplines represented include biology, botany, chemistry, ecology, engineering, wildlife management, geography, geology, physics and zoology in the natural sciences, and government, public policy and economics in the social sciences.

Five College Sustainability Studies

Sustainability will be essential to the formulation of sound environmental, economic and social progress in the 21st century. The Five College Sustainability Studies certificate (FCSS) program is designed to engage students in a structured course of study that will draw on courses from across the campuses in a range of disciplines. Students complete an internship, independent research project or advanced course work in sustainability studies.