Initial Publication Date: December 4, 2013

Earth Systems at Stanford University

Information for this profile was provided by Kathleen Phillips, Earth Systems Program, Stanford University. Information is also available on the program website. Students in this program are pursuing a bachelors degree.

Program Design & Assessment


Earth Systems is an interdisciplinary environmental science major that focuses on the study of contemporary environmental problems that lie at the interface of human and natural systems. Students select one of 6 course tracks (biosphere, oceans, anthrosphere, land systems, food and agriculture, energy science) to focus their studies.

Strengths of this program

Strengths of the program include interdisciplinary training in the natural, physical and social sciences through a curriculum that allows flexibility for students to choose the topics most relevant to their interests. The required internship is also a strength of our program that allows students to get real-world experience during their degree program. We offer one-on-one, personalized advising for our students from both faculty and a dedicated staff to help them navigate their options and make the most of their time at the university.

Types of students served

Undergraduate students in the liberal arts and sciences preparing for a wide range of careers.
Graduate students working towards a MS degree in an interdisciplinary environmental science topic.

Program Goals

The goals of this program are as follows:

Learning outcomes:

  1. Demonstrate knowledge of foundational skills and concepts relevant to interdisciplinary study of the environment.
  2. Analyze environmental problems at the interface of natural and human systems in an interdisciplinary fashion.
  3. Demonstrate the ability to communicate complex concepts and data to expert and non-expert audiences.
  4. Independently, and as part of a team, apply relevant science, economics, engineering, and policy to problem analysis and proposed solutions.

The learning goals were informed by the following resources:

Learning outcomes were developed in conjunction with a University-wide effort with all departments. Many discussions with colleagues in similar departments also contributed.

How program goals are assessed

We assess our Program through student surveys, evaluating the number of majors we have year to year, and Faculty Senate reviews of the program every 5 years.

Design features that allow goals to be met

The most important design feature is that we are flexible and responsive to student needs. We are able to make changes with a minimum of bureaucracy to ensure that our Program and our students are reaching their goals.

Alumni Careers

Graduation rate

We average 30 BS and 25 MS graduates per year.

Careers pursued by our alumni

Alumni are in a wide variety of careers including academia, non-profits, and business. Most are in environmental fields.

Courses and Sequencing

Diagram of course sequencing and requirements