2014-2015 Academic Catalog 
    Apr 21, 2018  
2014-2015 Academic Catalog [ARCHIVED CATALOG]

Global Environmental Studies Major

Global Environmental Studies Overview

Undergraduate Program

Citizens of the world in the 21st century must deal with notoriously difficult environmental questions. How do we reduce our dependency upon fossil fuels? What can we do to reverse biodiversity decline? Is biotechnology safe for humans and other species? How will we achieve more economic justice and protect the environment at the same time? Will international institutions and social movements lead the way or will local environmental justice groups provide the real solutions?

Through an interdisciplinary approach, the global environmental studies major provides students with the knowledge and tools to understand the economic, political and cultural causes of environmental transformation, degradation and exploitation. More importantly, the major affords students opportunities, through research, internships and field work, to consider and develop solutions to environmental problems. Students will look at global and local environment issues through the eyes of people whose lives, livelihoods and ways of living are at stake in the process of economic, ecological, cultural and political change. Students will contend with the economic practices, laws and policies, cultural values and social norms that guide peoples’ relation with the living world in multiple locations with different climates, histories, economies and governing structures. Students will learn the histories, geographies and strategies of major social movements which have fought for environmental protection, cultural survival, biodiversity, food security, territory, common property and equitable distribution of resources.

International and local communities need professionals with a breadth of understanding of today’s complex realities. GES students can gain an understanding of multiple environmental issues, including: political economy; culture and environment; gender, race and ethnic studies; economic inequalities, global environmental change; environmental information science; environmental law and policy; geographic information systems; and social theory. With a customized program of study, students can prepare for careers in a variety of fields, including media, finance, law, advocacy, research, government, higher education, civil-society organizations, social movements and corporations. They will have the knowledge and skills necessary to contribute to: sustainable livelihoods, healthy ecosystems, recovery from environmental damage, protection of indigenous and community ecologies, and innovative social, economic, and ecological alternatives for the future.

For details, students should consult the Guide to the Major/Minor, available on the GES Clark web page.

The Clark Advantage

Geography majors, Global Environmental Studies (GES) majors, and Environmental Science (ES) majors concentrating in Earth System Science (ESS) have the opportunity to work on research projects with faculty members and graduate students in one of the most prestigious graduate programs of geography worldwide. Summer Fellowships are available for qualified students to participate in the Human-Environment Regional Observatory (HERO) program, an intensive summer academic-year research effort focused on environmental change in New England. Eligible majors also have the opportunity to enter the accelerated M.A. in GIScience program. Other accelerated M.A. programs include International Development and Social Change, Environmental Science and Policy, and Community Development and Planning.

Geography, GES, and ESS undergraduates are served by the Clark University Geography Association (CUGA) and Gamma Theta Upsilon, an international geographic honors society.

CUGA is the voice of Geography, GES, and ESS majors, with student representation on the undergraduate studies committee and in departmental meetings. CUGA representatives are able to vote at department meetings and give their ideas and opinions on various topics that concern undergraduate majors. They also attend field trips and host events, such as The CUGA Annual Address on Practicing Geography.

Gamma Theta Upsilon is an international honor society. In order to become members, initiates must have completed a minimum of three geography courses, have maintained a minimum GPA of 3.3, and have completed at least three semesters (or five quarters) of college course work. For more information on Gamma Theta Upsilon please see their official website.

Major Requirements

The Global Environmental Studies major provides a general introduction into the interdisciplinary field, and offers the opportunity to study a particular dimension in depth. The major has four components: (1) Breadth courses; (2) Skills Courses; (3) Depth Courses; and (4) a Capstone course. GES majors are required to take a minimum of 12 interdepartmental courses in accordance with the following guidelines:

Breadth Requirement (5 courses required)

Environmental problems and solutions result from the interplay of knowledge systems, economic systems, governments, international institutions, cultures, social movements and ecologies. Breadth courses emphasize the basic concepts of the Global Environmental Studies Major and ways of creating knowledge. Breadth area courses help you build frameworks for understanding the world. We strongly encourage you to take your breadth courses early in your program, as they are often prerequisites for 200-level courses.

Majors must take a total of 5 breath courses. One course must be from the GES State of the Earth list and one course must be from the GES Natural Science list. The remaining three courses can be chosen from three of these four broad disciplinary areas: Economics/Political Economy of the Environment; Government/Institutions; Civil Society and Social Movements; and Culture and Environment.

Breadth Areas

Skills Requirement (2 courses required)

Skills are particularly important to promoting valid analysis of environmental problems and their solutions. They are of critical importance in gaining employment after graduation. Majors must take two skills courses, but are encouraged to take more. GEOG 141 - Research Design and Methods in Geography  is strongly recommended for all GES majors, subject to permission from the advisor to choose another option, especially for those students who take a communications or humanities-based approach to the major. The second skills course should be intellectually compatible with the student’s chosen “depth” area.

Depth Requirement (4 courses required)

Depth courses give you an opportunity to explore a specific subject area more critically and stringently. The field of global environmental studies is large, and students should develop expertise in a more narrowly defined substantive area. Majors are required to take four depth courses, two of which must be at a 200-level. The depth or substantive area is designed by the student and advisor and formalized in the learning plan (see below). Some examples of areas include the following: Sustainability Science; Culture and Political Ecology; Urban Ecology and Urban Environment; Environmental Risks and Hazards; Resource Management; Land-Change and Land-Degradation Science; Art and the Environment; Energy and the Environment; Food, Justice, and Sustainability; and Climate Change Sciene and Policy.

Suggested Depth Areas


The capstone is intended to draw together the knowledge and skills gained throughout the course of study for completing the requirements of the major. Each year a series of capstone courses is offered. The chosen capstone should complement the work completed previously by the student and be in accordance with the student’s formal learning plan. Internships and special research opportunities (with academic credit) are also encouraged and can count as capstone experiences, subject to approval by the student’s academic advisor.

Learning Plan and Learning Synopsis

Each student is required to prepare a formal learning plan upon declaring the major. This plan, which can take the form of the major planning sheet in the program guide, identifies the courses the student intends to take (and in which semesters) in order to complete the major requirements. This plan can and should be regularly updated, with files retained by the major advisor and/or the undergraduate program assistant, as well as by the student.

In addition, by February of the senior year, each student must complete a learning synopsis consisting of a worksheet from within the program guide, as well as a 2-3 page essay. The synopsis will provide a comprehensive assessment of the GES major as experienced by the student. Specifically, the synopsis describes and points to evidence of student achievement according to the goals of the major: 1) understanding the diverse sources, and therefore, possible solutions to environmental problems; 2) articulating relationships of people, culture, and society with the biophysical environment; 3) using concepts of sustainability, economics, culture, ecology and social justice in global contexts 4) identifying a specific problem/issue of global environmental significance and discussing a comprehensive approach to solutions; and 5) mastery of appropriate skills. The synopsis must be developed in consultation with, and signed by the advisor and the GES Director.

Internships and Study Abroad

Students are strongly encouraged to do internships with local, state, federal and international governments, as well as businesses, social movements and civil society organizations for major credit. Similarly, study abroad provides students the opportunity to witness first-hand the environmental issues that arise in other parts of the world and to be a part of their analysis and solution. To receive credit in the GES major for study abroad, students must work with their faculty advisor and the GES undergraduate program assistant.

Requirements for the Dual Major

In accordance with university guidelines, the requirements for a dual major are identical to those of the individual major, but two courses may be double-counted towards both majors.

Honors Program

The honors program in GES provides qualified students majoring in global environmental studies an opportunity to conduct independent research in collaboration with faculty.


    Program Requirements

  • Complete a two-semester independent honors project (thesis) or participate in a research program, such as HERO, approved by the GES Director. The final product will be evaluated by an Honors Committee.
  • Present a poster or paper from the honors project at Academic Spree Day or other approved venue.
  • Project must be supervised by a geography faculty member and one additional faculty member; the two members constitute the student’s Honors Committee.


    Program Candidate Qualifications

  • Open to juniors with a minimum GPA of 3.25 overall and 3.5 GPA in Global Environmental Studies by the end of the first semester of their junior year of study, who demonstrate appropriate research background to undertake independent research, and find a faculty sponsor.
  • Honors participants should have completed GEOG141 Research Methods, or its equivalent, before entering.


    Applying for Honors

  • Notification of eligibility and information about the program is forwarded to all junior students in November of the junior year.
  • Students wishing to start their honors project in the spring semester of the junior year must notify the Undergraduate Program Coordinator by December 15. Those students wishing to start their honors project in the fall semester of their senior year must notify the Undergraduate Program Coordinator by March 15.
  • Eligibility for the Honors Program is considered provisional until grades for the fall semester (junior year) are received. If these grades enable the student to continue meeting the GPA standards described above, she/he becomes formally eligible for the program. Acceptance depends on securing a faculty honors project advisor, or a place in an approved faculty research project.
  • Honors students register for GEOG297 Directed Research (Honors), or HERO for two semesters -spring/fall of the junior-senior year or fall/spring of the senior year.


Details of the honors program in geography are available in the undergraduate section of The Graduate School of Geography’s web page.

Global Environmental Studies Faculty


Anthony Bebbington, Ph.D.
Mark Davidson, Ph.D.
J. Ronald Eastman, Ph.D.
Jody Emel, Ph.D.
Karen Frey, Ph.D.
James McCarthy, Ph.D.
James T. Murphy, Ph.D.
Richard Peet, Ph.D.
Colin Polsky, Ph.D.
Robert Gilmore Pontius Jr, Ph.D.
Samuel Ratick, Ph.D.
Dianne Rocheleau, Ph.D. (Program Director)
John Rogan, Ph.D.
Christopher Williams, Ph.D.


Kiran Asher, Ph.D.
John Baker, Ph.D.
Denise Bebbington, Ph.D.
Halina Brown, Ph.D.
Sarah Buie, M.F.A.
Patrick Derr, Ph.D.
Timothy Downs, D.Env.
Jude Fernando, Ph.D.
William Fisher, Ph.D.
Jacqueline Geoghegan, Ph.D.
Robert Goble, Ph.D.
Barbara Goldoftas, Ph.D.
Todd Livdahl, Ph.D.
Bruce London, Ph.D.
Paul W. Posner, Ph.D.
Jennie Stephens, Ph.D.


Douglas Johnson, Ph.D.
Roger Kasperson, Ph.D.
Robert Kates, Ph.D.
B. L. Turner, Ph.D.


Robert Mitchell, Ph.D.

Off Campus Affiliated

Scott Jiusto, Ph.D - Worcester Polytechnic Institute
Rob Krueger, Ph.D - Worcester Polytechnic Institute

Global Environmental Studies Courses