Director: Aaron Swoboda

Environmental Studies is an interdisciplinary major that integrates perspectives from social and natural sciences, arts and literature, and humanities. Environmental Studies addresses social, scientific, literary, economic, political, historical, ethical, and aesthetic dimensions of human interactions with environments.

The Environmental Studies program grew out of the conviction that Carleton has a responsibility to prepare students to understand and respond to the complex nature of environmental changes, particularly those caused by current and emerging patterns of human development.


Environmental problems require multiple perspectives since scientific, technological, social, economic, political, historical, and aesthetic factors are all critically involved. Public policy dealing with complex technical issues also demands knowledge and understanding of various disciplines.

Students in these program get a chance to work together in common courses, seminars, and projects to address issues at the local, regional, national, and global levels.

Can I major in it?

Yes. A major has been offered to all students starting with the class of 2011.

Can an Environmental Studies major study abroad?

Yes! There are many off-campus study programs relevant to environmental studies offered by Carleton and other institutions. Carleton also offers four programs with significant field investigation components in environmental studies. You may count up to one 6-credit course taken on either Carleton or non-Carleton OCS programs toward the requirements of the major.

If you wish to receive major credit for courses taken on a non-Carleton OCS program, you should arrange this with the ENTS director prior to the program. In general, you are encouraged to engage in careful planning when considering whether to go on an OCS program.

Topics explored

Air and water quality, biodiversity, climate change, energy, environmental art, environmental ethics, environmental literature, water, population dynamics, resource extraction and conservation.

Focus areas

Majors choose to specialize in one of the following six focus areas: Food and Agriculture, Conservation and Development, Landscapes and Perception, Water Resources, Environmental Justice, or Energy and Climate.

How to get started

Prospective majors are encouraged to take an introductory science course during their first year. There are five course options for this requirement:

  • ENTS 112: Conservation Biology
  • BIO 126: Energy Flow in Biological Systems
  • BIO 190: Global Change Biology
  • CHEM 128: Principles of Environmental Chemistry
  • GEOL 120: Introduction to Environmental Geology.

In selecting from these five introductory science courses, prospective majors are encouraged to select the course that would be most relevant to their field of focus.

Learn more about the ENTS major