Initial Publication Date: May 4, 2012

Environmental Studies, University of Nebraska at Lincoln

Information for this profile was provided by David Gosselin, Environmental Studies, University of Nebraska at Lincoln. Information is also available on the program website. Students in this program are pursuing a bachelors degree.

Program Design & Assessment


The University of Nebraska-Lincoln Environmental Studies major is designed for students who want to make a difference and contribute to solving current as well as future environmental challenges on a local to global scale. The program utilizes a holistic approach and a framework of sustainability. The Environmental Studies major provides students with a degree and the skills necessary to work across disciplines and to be competitive in the job market. Students will acquire a broad-based education in the physical, biological, and social sciences and develop competency in a specific discipline.


A redesign of the UNL Environmental Studies program was initiated in Fall 2008. The updating process was informed by discussions with the deans of the colleges of Arts and Sciences and Agriculture and Natural Resources, who own and operate the Environmental Studies program; feedback from alumni, students, and employers; conversations with faculty from collaborating disciplines including the Environmental Studies Coordinating Committee; and consultation of national documents and the published literature specifically emphasizing environmental and sustainability literacy and best practices for the intellectual development of undergraduate students. As a result of the information gathering process, we wanted the UNL Environmental Studies program to:

  1. promote an educational environment that is consistent with calls for improved learning in higher education based on how people learn;
  2. create opportunities for students to develop 21st century skills that are necessary for long-term professional success, emphasizing collaboration; critical thinking/problem solving; ethics/social responsibility; professionalism/work ethic; creativity/innovation; and lifelong learning/self-direction;
  3. support the United Nation's vision of education, that is, "linking social, economic, political, and environmental concerns" which "demands a deeper, more ambitious way of thinking about education, one that retains a commitment to critical analysis while fostering creativity and innovation;" and
  4. develop a learning environment that focuses on student success whereby students are not only engaged in their own learning, but engaged with the community as well.

Program Goals

The specific learning objectives for the program are as follows:


  • Earth and Ecological Systems: Understand the structure, function, and interaction among Earth's four major spheres: land, water, living things, and air in the context of the physical, geological, and biological processes as well as human influences and their variability over space and time.
  • Human Dimensions of Environmental Challenges: Understand how law, politics, ethics, economics, historical setting, and cultural diversity influence past, present and future public policy, decision-making, and risk assessment related to environmental challenges at local to global scales with emphasis on environmentally sustainable development.
  • Methods, Tools and Technology: Use and apply relevant field, laboratory, geospatial, and social science research methods, tools and technologies to address environmental challenges in an ethical manner.


  • Professional Development: Integrate classroom learning with practical application through internships, international study experiences, and undergraduate research experiences.
  • Communication: Use and apply written and oral communication skills for different audiences and purposes including oral presentations, public speaking, online publishing, and visual displays of environmental information.
  • Collaboration: Collaborate as members of teams, effectively working with multiple stakeholders from various backgrounds to address environmental challenges.


  • Interdisciplinary Approach: Integrate multiple kinds of information, tools, and methods from a variety of disciplines to analyze and construct arguments about complex environmental challenges and sustainable development.
  • Critical Thinking and Problem Solving: Synthesize interdisciplinary knowledge, technical knowledge, and research methodologies to complete a capstone senior thesis project.

Alumni Careers

Our program is designed so that students can pursue a variety of career paths in that students are:

  1. conversant in the issues and demands of global society;
  2. prepared to meet the needs of employers who want employees that possess 21st century skills; and
  3. able to work across disciplines.

Ultimately, the students are competitive in the job market or in accessing graduate programs. We do not prepare students for a specific career track. We promote flexibility to our students.

Program Assessment

To assess the extent to which we achieve our objectives, the UNL-ES program has partnered with Target Training International to gain insights into the behaviors, motivators and soft skill (21st century skills) competencies of program majors to determine both growth throughout the program, as well as correlation with future job requirements. We also use the NCSE/CEDD Campus to Careers Alumni Survey, and a Community Survey. Embedded in each of our courses are formative assessments.

Courses and Sequencing

Entry into the program

Students enter the program from a variety of directions. A primary entry course is ENVR 101 Environmental Studies Orientation (1 credit)

Core courses

ENVR 101 Environmental Studies Orientation (1 credit)
ENVR 201 Science, Systems, Sustainability and the Environment (3 credits)
ENVR 249 Individual and Cultural Perspectives of the Environment (3 credits)
ENVR 319 Environmental Engagement in the Community (2 credits)
ENVR 497 Internship in Environmental Studies (1 credit)
ENVR 499 Senior Thesis (3 credits)


See Attached Examples of Environmental Studies Requirements including electives and emphasis area requirements.


ENVR 499 Senior Thesis (3 credits)

Other requirements or key features

Through the core courses and electives, students acquire a broad-based education in the physical, biological, and social sciences. Each student is also required to choose an emphasis area to develop competency in a specific discipline. The current emphasis areas include:

Natural Resources and Applied Climate Science through the College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources

Anthroplogy, Biology, Chemistry, Communication Studies, Geoscience, Geography, Meteorology/Climatology, Political Science, Psychology, and Sociology through the College of Arts and Sciences.

Supporting Materials