Environmental Studies Minor

Overview for Environmental Studies Minor

With an emphasis on sustainability and holistic thinking, the environmental studies minor provides students with opportunities for the in-depth analysis of global and regional environmental issues, their causes, and their potential solutions. In particular, a required 500-level seminar serves as a capstone experience, helping students to integrate knowledge from several disciplinary perspectives, including socio-cultural, historical, political, economic, ethical, scientific, and/or technological factors. Having completed the minor, students will possess a high level of environmental literacy, an important component of many professional fields within the sciences, engineering, law, journalism, and public affairs.

Notes about this minor:

  • Posting of the minor on the student's academic transcript requires a minimum GPA of 2.0 in the minor.
  • Notations may appear in the curriculum chart below outlining pre-requisites, co-requisites, and other curriculum requirements (see footnotes).

The plan code for Environmental Studies Minor is ENVIST-MN.

Curriculum for 2023-2024 for Environmental Studies Minor

Current Students: See Curriculum Requirements

Choose five of the following:*
 Humans and Their Environment
Humans and their societies have always been shaped by their environment, but as human societies became more complex, their relationship with their environment changed from one of simple adaptation to one in which they had the power to change their environment. Often, the changes they have wrought have had unintended consequences, forcing societies to adapt to the changes that they themselves have brought about. Although we tend to think that this is a relatively recent phenomenon, humans have been altering their environment since the first human societies made the transition to agriculture over ten thousand years ago, if not longer. In this class, we will use the tools of environmental archaeology to explore the history of human interactions with their environments and to draw lessons on how we could manage that interaction today. Lecture 3 (Fall or Spring).
 Natural Resource Economics
This course develops an economic perspective on one of the most important and challenging issues facing global society: the allocation, use, and preservation of natural resources. The course presents and discusses the methodology economists use to inform natural resource managers and policy makers. Economic thought and analysis are used to evaluate a variety of issues in this area. The course concludes with a brief discussion of the interdisciplinary aspects of natural resource management. (Prerequisites: ECON-101 or completion of one (1) 400 or 500 level ECON course.) Lecture 3 (Fall).
 Environmental Economics
This course examines the relationship and apparent conflict between economic growth and environmental quality, the economics of environmental issues and policy, the environment as a resource and a public good, and the ability and lack of ability of free markets and the government to deal adequately with pollution and other environmental problems. (Prerequisites: ECON-101 or completion of one (1) 400 or 500 level ECON course.) Lecture 3 (Spring).
 Environmental Disasters
This class will survey the history environmental disasters (from floods to oil spills) in modern American and global society. Students will study several specific disasters (for example, Hurricane Katrina, the Great Midwestern Floods of the 1990s, Love Canal, and the Haitian Earthquake of 2008) and analyze a series of broader themes that illuminate their meaning, including the economic impact of various disasters, the legal and political ramifications of modern disasters, and the social and cultural meaning of disasters in various societies. Lecture 3 (Fall).
 Environmental Philosophy
Environmental philosophy examines the ethical, metaphysical, and social justice questions surrounding human interactions with nature and the management of natural resources. This course explores the nature and source of environmental values and how environmental goals are achieved through policy decisions. We evaluate and apply philosophical and ethical theory to environmental issues such as endangered species, climate change, wilderness preservation, sustainability, and environmental justice. Lecture 3 (Fall).
 Energy Policy
This course provides an overview of energy resources, technologies, and policies designed to ensure clean, stable supplies of energy for the future. The course evaluates the impacts of fossil fuel, renewable energy, and hydrogen technologies on society and how public policies can be used to influence their development. The development of U.S. energy policy is of particular concern, although a global perspective will be integrated throughout the course. Lecture 3 (Spring).
Introduction to Environmental Studies
Introduction to Environmental Studies explores the human condition within an environmental context by emphasizing critical environmental problems facing humans on both global and regional scales, and by applying interdisciplinary approaches. Issues, their causes, and potential solutions will be analyzed with respect to ethical, social, historical, political, scientific, and technological factors. Key concepts and themes include climate change, natural resource use and waste, population and consumption, urban and built environments, food, energy, globalization, markets, politics, environmental justice and inequality, and environmentalism. Lecture 3 (Fall or Spring).
Environment and Society
Environment and Society examines the social, cultural, political, and ethical issues related to the environment. The main purpose of this course is to get you to think critically about environment and society relations—how humans interact with the environment and one another—and the consequences of those interactions on individual, local, national, and regional levels. It is organized around the concepts of sustainability and resilience, which combine interdisciplinary insights from the natural sciences, social sciences, and humanities. Other key themes include the Anthropocene, industrialization and impacts of capitalism, and intersectionality and environmental justice. Lecture 3 (Fall, Spring).
 Nature, Sex, and Gender
In this course, students will explore ways in which scientific knowledge about nonhumans and the natural world has been shaped by human ideas about sex, gender, and heteronormativity. They will learn about the changing perspectives on sex and gender in the natural sciences through readings and multimedia and investigate how gender and sexuality have been studied in biological and natural sciences past and present. Additionally, readings and media will explore the intersection of sex and gender in the environment with related social issues, such as racism, ableism, and colonialism. The course will also examine how scientific, science studies, and gender studies scholars are developing and using new approaches, such as queer ecologies and feminist biology, to critique and change how science is practiced with respect to assumptions and inferences about sex and gender. Lecture 3 (Spring).
 Foundations of Engagement and Community Transformation
Are you passionate about addressing the socially-complex, wicked problems of our time? This interdisciplinary, active-learning course will lay the groundwork for students who want to participate in future place-based community-engaged research, development or design projects that build on community strengths and address community determined challenges. Through literature reviews, discussions, cases study analysis, role plays, debates, reflective writing, and visits with experienced community practitioners, we will explore the larger context of the systems within which we live and how others have engaged in efforts to improve community wellbeing both locally and globally. We will strive for a more nuanced understanding of our world and its power dynamics from various perspectives. We will investigate the context in which community and economic development has traditionally occurred, how technology has been involved, and the effects of projects and activities on the “beneficiaries”. We will investigate best practices including mindsets, worldviews, skills, processes, and tools for community-driven positive change. Finally we will use all our learnings to develop our own evaluation framework and apply it to a current community project. This course incorporates humanities and social science approaches and counts for general education requirements. Lecture 3 (Spring).
Face of the Land
Land and landscapes have been shaped, and reshaped, through a variety of geological forces, historical developments, and societal changes. In turn, human societies and cultures change within the context of their environment. Students will explore a historically informed, humanistic approach to the relationship of technology and society using landscapes and land use change. This course uses an interdisciplinary lens to critically examine intersections of natural, built and lived environments, social processes, and environmental change. Lecture 3 (Spring).
History of Ecology and Environmentalism
This course explores the history of ecological science, from the eighteenth century to the present, and it features the political use of ecological ideas in environmental debates, from the 19th century to the present. We investigate how social and political ideas have influenced ecological science, how ecological concepts have influenced Western politics and society, and how different generations of ecological researchers have viewed their role in society. Lecture 3 (Fall).
Energy and the Environment
This course will examine contemporary energy issues, with particular emphasis placed on the environmental implications associated with energy consumption and production. Students will learn about how social, political, economic, and historical factors affect various energy technologies and fuels (including nuclear, coal, oil, natural gas, solar, biomass, and wind) and the environmental tradeoffs associated with each of these energy systems. Lecture 3 (Fall, Spring).
 Industry, Environment, and Community in Rochester
This course examines Rochester through the lens of industrialization, immigration, technological innovation, and environmental change between the 1890s and 1990s. This class blends readings and discussion with experiential learning and community-based research projects to help students understand community identity as a result of changes in livelihoods, immigration, and environment. Students will examine these social changes in both a local and global context. Students will have a better appreciation for the way historical forces shape a contemporary sense of place. Lecture 3 (Spring).
 Gender, Science, and Technology
This course explores the importance of gender within Western science and technology. It considers how masculine and feminine identities are socially and culturally shaped, how sex and gender are being significantly transformed, and how rethinking gendered practices may help make science and technology fairer and more responsive. Cross-listed with women's and gender studies. Lecture 3 (Fall).
 Surveillance and Society
Yes, you are being watched. In this course, we consider how surveillance technologies permeate all areas of life for humans, animals, and robots. From smart houses that are always listening, to tracking devices for wildlife research, or networked AI-enhanced robots, the role of surveillance is an under-examined constant in post-millennium life. Whether surveilled by government agencies for social control, private corporations for profit, family members for safety, or friends and the public for amusement, the power dynamics of how surveillance data are gathered, stored, managed, and distributed reveal new social and ethical relationships, while also reinforcing pre-existing patterns of bias and inequality. The ethical impacts of surveillance technologies press the limits of civil society, privacy assumptions, and even animal rights, when gathering and storing data without consent or among vulnerable populations. In this course, you will discover the promises and perils of surveillance technology by applying insights from STS (science and technology studies) and other interdisciplinary fields. Lecture 3 (Fall).
Environmental Policy
Governments and organizations use a variety of tools, including laws and regulations, to take action on issues related to people and the environment. This course introduces students to environmental policies on numerous topics in a variety of institutions, contexts, and scales (such as local, state, federal, international). Students will examine how societal values inform the development, content, and impacts of environmental policies. Key topics include climate change, air and water pollution, and community sustainability. Lecture 3 (Fall, Spring).
 Great Lakes
The Great Lakes ecosystem is a critically important freshwater resource, both locally and globally. This course examines the lakes and surrounding region as a case study for understanding global environmental issues. Using an interdisciplinary lens, students will assess the local, regional, national, and international scope of Great Lakes environmental issues, and analyze the roles of history, science, engineering, economics, public policy, and other relevant factors in shaping the past, present, and future of the lakes and human communities in the watershed. Lecture 3 (Fall).
 Nature and Quantification
In this course, students will examine the ways in which “nature,” broadly conceived, has been quantified, standardized, and in many cases commodified in the modern West – often in the context of the natural sciences, government bureaucracies, capitalist markets, or some combination of the three. Reading and discussing broadly across history, science studies, anthropology, philosophy, and ecology, students will gain multidisciplinary perspectives on modern informational thinking, and develop analytical tools for assessing contemporary issues related to the quantified environment. Lecture 3 (Biannual).
 Topics in Environmental Studies
This course will focus on a special problem or topical area in the field of Environmental Studies. Topics and specific content and methods vary from year to year or Semester to Semester. This course may count for minors and immersions with the permission of the Department. The STS Department Chair and individual instructors may be contacted for details. Lecture 3 (Annual).
Interdisciplinary Capstone Seminar
This course is an upper-level, Writing Intensive undergraduate seminar that explores the complex interlinkages between science, technology, the environment, and society in contemporary and historical contexts. The capstone seminar will sharpen the student’s understanding of STEM and environmental topics by integrating diverse perspectives from the humanities and social sciences, including approaches from science and technology studies (STS) and environmental studies. Students will work closely with faculty as they develop, revise, and present a research project. (Enrollment in a Department of STS minor or immersion, or permission of instructor). (Prerequisites: Completion of any 2 of the following courses: Any STSO undergraduate level (100-500) courses, or ANTH-360 or ECON-421 or ECON-520 or ENGL-419 or HIST-345 or PHIL-308 or PHIL-402 or PUBL-530 or equivalent courses.) Lecture 3 (Fall, Spring).
Biodiversity and Society
Biodiversity, the diversity of life on earth from genes to ecosystems, is on the decline worldwide and considered one of the most pressing issues facing humanity. This interdisciplinary course explores the wide-ranging challenges and opportunities to understand biodiversity loss and address biodiversity conservation, with a focus on human wellbeing, cultural values, social science dimensions, and other humanistic discipline contributions. Lecture 3 (Biannual).
Sustainable Communities
The concept of sustainability has driven many national and international policies. More recently, we have become aware that unless we physical build and rebuild our communities in ways that contribute to sustainability, making progress toward that goal is unlikely. It is equally important to recognize the social aspects of sustainability. In addition, it is at the local level that the goals of equity (a key consideration in community sustainability), most often achieved through citizen participation and collaborative processes are most easily realized. This course will broaden students understanding of the concept of sustainability, particularly the concept of social sustainability. This course focuses on sustainability as a way to bring light to the connections between natural and human communities, between nature and culture, and among environmental, economic, and social systems. Working closely with local organizations, students will explore the applicability of theoretical concepts. Lecture 3 (Fall).
 Science, Technology, Society Independent Study

* At least one elective must be taken at the 300-level or higher.

** Three courses must be STSO courses.