Undergrad programs

The systems that shape the Earth’s environment are dynamic and highly interactive. In the Environmental Studies Program, we work to understand these systems and how they influence the planet's diverse ecosystems, our natural resources, the communities we live in, and local and global political systems. Washington University is a leader in research on global climate change and energy, sustainable food production, the environment and human health, and biodiversity conservation. We offer a major and two minors, internships, research, community-engaged partnerships, and study abroad. Our majors and minors capture the strengths of both the traditional academic departments and the interdisciplinary innovation necessary to fully explore the multiple issues and questions posed in the study of the environment. Many of our courses are experiential, project-based, collaborative, and/or community-engaged. We also offer a variety of courses that are integral to environmentally oriented majors in other departments and programs. Many of our students jointly pursue interests in business, sustainability, law, engineering, humanities, ecology & conservation, One Health, and pre-health.

Major, Minors & Pathfinder

We offer a range of programs of study

Environmental Analysis Major

Our Environmental Analysis Major is a flexible, 49-credit major that focuses on developing critical skills and competencies in interdisciplinary environmental problem-solving. It is designed to prepare students to real world environmental problem solving by providing breadth and depth across environmental humanities, social sciences, and natural sciences, as well as deep and interdisciplinary training in analysis, problem solving, communication, and community engagement. It is ideal for students seeking interdisciplinary training focused on the environment and sustainability and is designed to stand alone or complement another primary major.

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Environmental Analysis Minor

Our Environmental Analysis Minor is an 18-credit minor that includes deep training in analysis, critical thinking, and problem-solving. The coursework includes opportunities for interdisciplinary, collaborative, project-based, and community-engaged learning. It is designed to pair well with disciplinary-based majors to provide interdisciplinary, applied experiences that can be leveraged for career and job preparation.

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Environmental Studies Minor

Our Environmental Studies Minor is a flexible, 18-credit option that includes introductory and upper level courses, allowing students to explore environmental courses across a range of disciplines that complement your major and personal areas of interest.

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Pathfinder Fellows in Environmental Leadership

The Pathfinder Fellows Program is a multi-year cohort-based undergraduate program with a focus on Environmental Leadership. Integrated around themes of environmental science and sustainability, the program is intended to draw in students from all four undergraduate schools with a yearly cohort of 12-16 students. The program trains students to gain a sense of place, cultivate environmental leadership skills, and develop critical thinking and problem solving skills across scales, from individual sites to neighborhoods to landscapes to nations and across the globe. Through shared coursework, community-engaged internships and research, service opportunities, and experiences in urban and rural environments, students are trained to emerge as global leaders in their respective fields.

Learn more about Pathfinder Fellows in Environmental Leadership


Poster Presentation

Sustainability Exchange

The Sustainability Exchange engages interdisciplinary teams of students to tackle real-world energy, environmental, and sustainability problems through an experiential form of education. Students participate in projects with on- or off-campus clients developed with and guided by faculty advisors from across the University. Teams deliver to their clients an end-product that explores "wicked" problems requiring innovative methods and solutions.

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RESET: Renewable Energy, Decarbonization, and the Electric Grid

RESET is an interdisciplinary course that explores the incredible potential of renewable energy, energy storage, and electrification to mitigate climate change. Students will gain an in-depth understanding of the complex dynamics that are driving rapid deployment of renewables and present both opportunities and challenges to decarbonization in the years ahead. Through the lenses of business, policy, and engineering, students in RESET will learn through classroom lectures from faculty, industry professionals, and policy-makers; group discussions; field trips to solar arrays and a landfill gas power plant; and a final team project where students serve as consultants to a local government, proposing an on-site solar strategy, local policy changes to support decarbonization, and more.

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Interdisciplinary Environmental Clinic

This course constitutes the technical component of an interdisciplinary environmental law clinic based at the Law School. Engineering and Arts & Sciences students work in interdisciplinary teams with law students, handling environmental projects for public interest, environmental or community organizations or individuals.

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International Climate Negotiation Seminar

Each year, a group of graduate and undergraduate Washington University students attends the Conference of the Parties (COP) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). Each delegate closely follows a topic at the conference by attending side events, sitting in on negotiations, and speaking to diplomats and other students from around the world.

Learn more about the COP Seminar
Dr. Sharon Deem works with student researchers at Tyson Research Center

Senior Thesis

Environmental studies students can choose to do a Senior Thesis in lieu of a one of the other Capstone Courses. Students that choose to do a Senior Thesis work closely with a professor and hone in on an area they are interested in.

Learn more about senior thesis research


Environmental Studies has a number of Internship opportunities for students to apply what they are learning in the classroom. Internships are available throughout the year, and are both on and off campus. Our internships are paid, and open to all Wash U students. For many of the internship there is also the option to receive course credit.

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Student Research and Latin Honors

We encourage any and all students to pursue some form of research during their time with Environmental Studies! Our students conduct research with disciplinary emphasis in humanities, social science, or natural sciences. Our students pursue independent study research during academic semesters or summers, summer research internships, and senior honors thesis research. Experiences range from guided work on a research mentor’s project for one to several semesters, to mentored independent research that results in a substantial scholarly product. Because we are an interdisciplinary program, scholarly products produced by our students take on a wide range of forms, from a thesis to policy brief to narrative to journal-style manuscript for publication. 

In the Environmental Studies Program, any student may conduct mentored research or senior thesis research regardless of GPA, and Departmental Honors and awards do not require completion of a senior thesis. Latin Honors for majors requires completion of a senior thesis in addition to meeting GPA requirements set by the university.

We invite students who are potentially interested in working on senior thesis research or pursuing Latin honors to connect with their major advisor and class professors early on to express interest and ask questions. We offer suggestions on how to prepare for potential senior thesis research, a guideline for the process on our information page. We offer a senior thesis research course, ENST 498, to students pursuing senior thesis and Latin honors research to provide some scaffolding and training in transferrable research and scholarly writing skills. This provides a supportive cohort environment in which students can learn together and workshop their research progress with peers.

Learn more about how to engage in student research with the Environmental Studies Program.


Study abroad

Through the Office of Overseas Programs in the College of Arts and Sciences, students can choose a program that best suits their interests and requirements for their major or minor. Students can learn more from the Overseas Programs, Study Aroad Office about the steps to study abroad including the process, programs, application, financial aid, connecting with former participants to hear their experiences, completing paperwork, and activities for before, during, and after your experience. You can contact particular Overseas Program Advisors if you have questions about particular programs.  If you want to count courses from a study abroad program toward your Environmental Studies major or minor, you will work with our Study Abroad Advisor (Jeff Catalano) to approve and sign your study plan. Participating in an approved Washington University program allows financial assistance and students may earn full academic credit for study abroad if they participate in Washington University programs. You can go on any program! Some programs our students have enjoyed include programs on sustainability, climate change, ecology & conservation, natural resource management through OTS in Costa Rica and South Africa, SFS in Cambodia and Peru, SITin Australia, Ecuador, Iceland, and Tanzania, and DIS in Copenhagen.

Learn more about study abroad