The Environmental Studies Program offers tracks in policy and science. During the senior seminar, students from both tracks meet and study current research relevant to key debates on the environment. Each track has appropriate contextual and support courses so a minor in another discipline is not needed. A first-year student should meet with an advisor prior to scheduling classes, because the coursework is quite diverse.
The science track, which leads to a B.S. degree, prepares you for a career or advanced study in science-related aspects of the environment. You will learn ways to restore and preserve habitats and ecosystems. Topics covered include biology of plants and animals, population biology, geomorphology, aquatic and terrestrial chemistry, and environmental monitoring.
The policy track, which leads to a B.A. degree, prepares you for employment or graduate work in policy-related aspects of the environment. You will learn to help formulate public and corporate policies for restoring and preserving ecosystems. Subject studies include environmental policy, environmental politics, environmental and resource economics, history of human-environment relations, natural resource conservation and management, community organizing, and conflict resolution.
The environmental studies major has access to several laboratories for relevant analysis. Experience in chemical and biological assessments of environmental samples is provided in several lab courses, the most important being Environmental Monitoring.
A recent grant from the National Science Foundation provided funding for five new state-of-the-art instruments, including an atomic absorption spectrometer, an ion chromatograph, and a portable photosynthesis system. These instruments, along with our new computer-linked weather station, provide students with the tools they need to monitor and assess the status of numerous critical environmental parameters. This direct hands-on experience is crucial to an understanding of environmental processes and of the interdisciplinary nature of environmental inquiry.
Resources available to our students include the many data sets from local, state, and federal environment-related agencies such as the Natural Resource Conservation Service, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality. Students also enjoy access to important natural areas, including the Appalachian Trail and wilderness sites within the Mt. Rogers National Recreation Area.
An internship with an environmental agency is required to complete a major in Environmental Studies. Professors have helped arrange internships for environmental studies students with NASA, TVA, The Nature Conservancy, and the EPA. This hands-on experience provides professional contacts which can assist in job placement.
Environmental Studies majors are encouraged to join the E&HGreens, a student organization that has sponsored Earth Day celebrations, promoted recycling, and found ways for the campus to use recycled goods. The leadership skills you gain by participating in the organization are excellent complements to the curriculum.
The following are examples of successful alumni in environmental fields:
- Derek Larimer, ’10, sustainability coordinator, Moseley Architects, Richmond, Va.
- Jonathon Catron, ’10, master’s program in Forestry, University of Kentucky.
- Robby Boles, ’09, forest technician, Virginia Department of Forestry, Buchanan County, Va.
- Martha Whitaker Chapman, ’04, watershed field coordinator, Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, Abingdon, Va.
- Justin Rodeheaver, ’04, utility forester supervisor, Appalachian Power, Wytheville, Va.
- Stacey Fowler, ’03, watershed manager, Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, Bristol, Va
- Alan Jones, ’03, doctoral program in Toxicology, Clemson University.
- Robyn Boyd, ’02, floodplain manager, Dewberry & Davis, Fairfax, Va.
- Brian Patton, ’01, assistant Commonwealth’s attorney, Russell County, Va.
- Melissa England, ’00, specification editor in construction design, Williamsburg, Va.