Initial Publication Date: May 1, 2012

Environmental Studies at Guilford College

Information for this profile was provided by Angela M. Moore, Environmental Studies, Geology, Guilford College. Information is also available on the program website. Students in this program are pursuing a bachelors degree.

Program Design & Assessment


Environmental Studies is an interdisciplinary major, which is designed to add breadth to the students primary disciplinary major.


The program was developed in response to student demand and faculty interests.

Program Goals

Our program is designed to develop student understanding of the complexities surrounding many environmental issues, and to prepare them to engage in interdisciplinary approaches to problem solving. Students are able to interpret scientific data and to apply analytical tools from the social sciences and humanities to address environmental issues.

Alumni Careers

The career paths our students take are very diverse, but in many cases dovetail with their disciplinary major; examples include environmental law and policy, outdoor/experiential learning, business management, environmental planning, water quality management, and ecosystem restoration.

Other graduates are engaged in non profit management, professional photography, renewable energy market development, and one is working with a geophysical firm.

Program Assessment

We assess our four primary learning objectives every year in the three required courses. For example, we include exam questions with hypothetical situations and require students to brainstorm about how different types of specialists would be able to contribute to address the problems in the introductory course. In the intermediate course, students craft an ecodocumentary that is designed to incorporate an analysis of the topic, and to consider methods for effectively presenting the subject material to a general audience. In the capstone class, students engage in an applied project that requires students to apply their (inter)disciplinary knowledge to a project on campus or in the surrounding community. Last year, for example, they conducted a study on the impacts and projected outcomes for dredging our campus lake, in response to general student interest to 'clean' the lake and re-instate recreational swimming. In a previous year, students conducted a thorough assessment of the ecological and community value of the 240 acres of wooded property on the campus.

It is more difficult to assess the specific learning outcomes in the elective courses since those faculty have a primary responsibility to their own departments, but the basic learning objectives are assessed each year through a survey approach and are included in the annual program assessment report.

Courses and Sequencing

Entry into the program

Introduction to Environmental Studies

Core courses

Modern Environmental Problems
Environmental Planning (two lab sciences, Modern Environmental Problems recommended)
Level I, II, and III science
Non-Science support course


Students are required to take 5 courses (20 credits) electives, chosen from the following list:
Level 1 Science (4 credits required)
BIOL 112 Integrative Biology: Organisms, Ecology and Evolution
CHEM 105 Chemistry of Recycling
CHEM 110 Real World Chemistry
CHEM 111 Chemical Principles I
GEOL 121 Geology and Environment
GEOL 141 Oceanography

Level 2 Science (4 credits required)
BIOL 212 Environmental Science
BIOL 224 Field Botany (BIOL 112)
BIOL 233 NC Freshwater Fishes (BIOL 112)
BIOL 235 Vertebrate Field Zoology (BIOL 112)
CHEM 341 Instrumental Analysis (Chem 111, 112)
GEOL 230 Environmental Pollution
MATH 112 Elementary Statistics
BIOL/GEOL 242 Natural Science Seminars (Africa, Galapagos)

Level 3 Science (4 credits required)
BIOL 334 Animal Behavior (BIOL 112)
BIOL 336 Ornithology (BIOL 112)
BIOL 438 General Ecology (BIOL 112)
GEOL 223 Hydrology (GEOL 121 or 141)
GEOL 340 Images of the Earth
GEOL 416 Sedimentology and Stratigraphy (GEOL 121 or 141, 122)

Non-science support courses (4 credits required)
ART 254 Sculpture and the Environment
ECON 222 Micro: Public Policy
ECON 301 Research Methods (ECON 222)
ECON 344 Environment Resource Economics
ENGL 225 American Literature Survey I
ENGL 228/REL 120 American Nature Writing
ENVS 220/ART 220 The American Landscape
HIST 227 Urban Environmental History
HIST 321 American Rivers
PHIL 242 Environmental Ethics
PECS 246 Mediation & Conflict Intervention
PSCI 318 Environmentalism in Early America
PSY344 Environmental Psychology (ENVS 101 or PSY101)
SOAN 225 Culture and the Environment

Electives (4 credits required)
Any of the approved courses listed above
IDS 437 Barrier Islands: Ecology and Development
Thesis Research


Environmental Planning

Other requirements or key features

The Environmental Studies major at Guilford College is highly flexible, and students are free to tailor their major to complement their required discplinary major. As with most of the other Interdisciplinary (IDS) majors, the ENVS degree is a required double major.

We are currently ranked as a 'high priority' program for Guilford College, and the ENVS coordinators have recently revisited the requirement to double major. Because of the broad nature of the program, we have concluded that the requirements would need to change significantly if we were to offer it as a 'stand alone' major. We would likely lose much of the interdisciplinary nature if we could not rely upon the disciplinary majors to provide sufficient depth and expertise, and would probably need to refocus into a science track and a policy track. In light of shrinking budgets and the lack of tenure track faculty contracted into the IDS programs, we feel that this model would not be feasible and we would lose some of the true strength of the program.

Students interested in Environmental Studies usually have few difficulties completing the second degree if they declare within the first or second year and plan accordingly. We strive to make sure that all of our students have an assigned advisor for both majors. The flexibility of the program is designed in part to consider the demands on students pursuing disciplinary majors with higher course requirements such as the natural sciences and business.

We believe that an international perspective is critical in order to effectively understand and address global environmental issues. The Environmental Studies program recently received a large grant from the Margaret A. Cargill Foundation, which is used to offer scholarships for students to study environmental issues abroad. Upon return, the scholarship recipients engage in a local internship to integrate their new perpectives in a service-oriented experiential learning opportunity. Many ENVS students choose to pursue study abroad through Guilford sponsored programs or via affiliated institutions such as the School for Field Studies or Ecoquest.