Initial Publication Date: June 10, 2015

Environmental Studies, University of Pennsylvania

Information for this profile was provided by Jane Dmochowski in 2009. The University of Pennsylvania is a university with graduate programs, including doctoral programs . Students in this program are pursuing a Bachelors degree.

Program Design & Assessment


The program in Environmental Studies is designed to provide students with an understanding of the breadth of contemporary environmental issues and basic skills needed to analyze them through a series of courses in environmental science, earth science, data analysis, and economics and policy, while ensuring that each student pursues a purposeful course of study in an Environmental Studies concentration.

Concentrations include Environmental Policy and Application, Global Environmental Systems, Environmental History and Regional Studies, Environmental Studies (individualized concentration), and Sustainability and Environmental Management (proposed concentration).

This is our interdisciplinary curriculum designed for students with a broad range of interests relating to the environment. Our department also offers a Geology major (with a Paleobiology and Geology track). We plan to revise the Geology major in the future to incorporate an Environmental Science track.

Strengths of this program

This curriculum is designed to prepare students for a wide range of careers and give them the opportunity to develop an expertise. The curriculum is flexible enough to accommodate students with a variety of interests in Environmental Studies but structured enough to give students a clear path to acquiring skills necessary for success.

Types of students served

Program Goals

The goals of this program are as follows:

The primary goal of the ENVS curriculum is to ensure that students get the basic skills and knowledge that are necessary to enter graduate school or continue in a career focused on environmental issues. These include scientific reasoning, knowledge of statistics, modeling and GIS, geoscience and environmental science background, research skills, and knowledge of economics and environmental policy. Additionally, the concentrations of the curriculum were designed to give the students expertise in a specific field of study. The mandatory senior thesis ensures that students gain research skills and deepen their knowledge in a specific field of study within Environmental Studies.

The learning goals were informed by the following resources:

How program goals are assessed

A method of assessment of the goals has not been formalized, but the student's senior thesis is used to evaluate the skills they learned in the program. If the student has acquired the requisite skills in Environmental Studies, they will successfully be able to complete and provide an oral defense of a novel, independent research project.

Design features that allow goals to be met

Alumni Careers

Graduation rate

Careers pursued by our alumni

The primary goal is preparation for a career or graduate school after graduation, which can be assessed based on placement after graduation. While we do not have students who have graduated from the ENVS curriculum adopted in 2008 (described above), students on the old curriculum have been placed in a variety of careers and graduate schools. Plans for seniors in 2009 include: 3 continuing to a masters program in our department, 1 going to the Graduate School of Education at the University of Pennsylvania, 1 going to Georgetown Law School, 1 gaining employment at the Bayshore Discovery Project, 2 students continuing to graduate school in architecture, 1 gaining employment at Barclays Capital (Asia-Pacific) Investment Banking Division, 1 Fulbright Scholar, 2 students going into the Peace Corps, 1 gaining employment with the Advisory Board Company, 1 gaining employment with Mahindra & Mahindra in India, and 1 beginning a master's of public health degree program at Boston University.

Courses and Sequencing

Diagram of course sequencing and requirements

Entry into the program

  • Introduction to Environmental Analysis
  • Introduction to Geology
  • Introduction to Oceanography
  • Natural Disturbances and Human Disasters
  • Earth and Life Through Time
  • Global Climate Change

Core courses

  • Data Analysis and Statistics*
  • Economics and Policy*
  • Geographical or Environmental Modeling*
  • Environmental Studies Seminar (Prerequisite: Introduction to Environmental Analysis)
  • Environmental Research Seminar
* A number of courses specified on the curriculum website can fulfill this requirement.


Students take 7 course units (7 cu's, typically 7 courses) in their concentration and 20 courses for their core requirements and college electives. For each concentration, each required course unit is selected from the pre-approved list that follows the concentration descriptions.

Other required courses

Aside from the core ENVS requirements above and the general education requirements for the College (courses in Society, History & Tradition, Arts & Letters, Humanities & Social Sciences, The Living World, The Physical World, Natural Sciences & Mathematics, Writing, Foreign Language, Quantitative Data Analysis, Formal Reasoning, Cross-Cultural Analysis, and Cultural Diversity in the U.S.), there are no other required courses for this curriculum.


  • Senior Thesis

Other key features of this program:

Each student is required to attend a summer field course or to seek a summer internship, summer employment, and/or academic-year practical experience/research related to his/her individual curriculum. This is referred to as the "curriculum related practical experience" requirement.

Supporting Materials