Environmental Studies

Degree Type Bachelor of Arts
Department Interdisciplinary
Academic Division The College
Offerings Major Minor
Environmental Studies is a holistic approach to studying interactions between humans and the natural environment. This interdisciplinary program comprises core courses augmented by courses in the humanities, social sciences and natural sciences. A culminating capstone experience draws upon this diversity of coursework to examine causes, consequences and solutions to environmental problems.

Why Study Environmental Studies at W&L?

  • The curriculum draws on the strengths of W&L faculty across several departments and the outstanding natural setting of Lexington to offer a truly unique undergraduate experience with an emphasis on place-based learning.
  • The faculty are accomplished scholars and teachers from diverse environmental disciplines. Students can take courses in applied ecology, environmental economics, Native American culture and anthropology, geology and eco-writing, among other topics.
  • Interdisciplinary courses put professors from different departments in the classroom together. They demonstrate how their respective fields are brought together to better understand the nature of environmental problems and their solutions. Philosophers team with ecologists, economists with anthropologists, and so on.
  • We emphasize place-based learning, putting course subjects in context with the local environment; examples include examining how land use around Lexington influences the health of the Chesapeake Bay coastal ecosystem, traveling to South Dakota to study how culture and economics intersect in the history of the Lakota people, or studying ecotourism in Central America.
  • Our study abroad program in Brazil offers immersive experiences where students learn about human-environment relationships in a uniquely different cultural, political, economic and ecological setting.
  • The capstone experience encourages students to complete independent research or work as part of a collaborative team to study a particular environmental issue from an interdisciplinary perspective and offer insightful, often creative solutions.

Opportunities for Students

Collaborative research with faculty: Students can work with program faculty on applied environmental research during the academic year for credit or as paid research fellows during the summer months. Students often travel to national or international conferences to present their research and co-author publications with faculty in peer-reviewed journals.

U.S.-Brazil Exchange Program: In this six-month or one-year cultural immersion experience, students learn Portuguese, live in Brazil, take courses and perform research related to energy and the environment.

Internship opportunities: Faculty grants and collaborative research have led to student summer internships with the U.S. Geological Survey, National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Agency, Virginia Department of Environmental Quality and similar offices. The A. Paul Knight Fellowship program offers internships with the Henry’s Fork Foundation in Idaho and the Nature Conservancy.

After W&L

Environmental Studies alumni have gone on to work in a variety of fields including environmental consulting, alternative energy industries, corporate environmental sustainability, federal and state environmental agencies, legal services, education and academia.

We cultivate connections with our alumni to offer opportunities for students to learn from their experiences and expand their professional networks.

“The Environmental Studies Department taught me to think more holistically about the connections between social justice and science, as well as how the environment shapes every aspect of human life.”

Kerriann LaubachClass of 2013, '16L

Robert Humston

Program Head

Debra Frein

Program Coordinator

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