2018-2019 Academic Catalog 
    Jun 26, 2019  
2018-2019 Academic Catalog [ARCHIVED CATALOG]

Global Environmental Studies Major

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Global Environmental Studies Overview

Undergraduate Program

Global Environmental Studies (GES) majors study the relations between society and environment. The major is structured so that students can critically understand how economic, cultural and political processes transform the earth’s environment. Completing the GES major involves taking classes that explore the relationship between society and environment from differing disciplinary perspectives. This means that although the major is administered by the School of Geography, GES majors can take classes that count towards the major in other programs, including: Visual and Performing Arts; International Development, Community and Environment; Biology; Chemistry, Physics, Economics; Political Science; Management; Philosophy; Sociology and Women’s and Gender Studies.

Completing the GES major requires students to take 12 courses with GES attributes. These courses are listed in the GES Program Guide. The major is structured so that students build foundational knowledge in their core courses, and then move onto develop one of three specialized set of skills. The selection of classes and identification of specialization should be undertaken in collaboration with a GES faculty advisor. Given the breadth of the GES major, it is imperative that students actively construct their major, understanding why they are taking particular classes and identify specific learning outcomes for the major.


  • Build foundational knowledge in society-environment relations from different disciplinary perspectives
  • Develop a specialized skill set that is applicable to particular scholarly and vocational areas
  • Understand both conventional and critical perspectives on society-environment relations
  • Build an awareness of the ways in which peoples can actively manage and change their environments

For additional information, students should consult the GES Program Guide, 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.S. in GIScience program. Other accelerated masters 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 the opportunity to attend 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 annual Practicing Geography Week.

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 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:

  • 5 Core Courses (formerly “Breadth” Courses)
  • 2 Skills Courses
  • 4 Specialization Courses (formerly “Depth” Courses)
  • 1 Capstone Course/Credit

Students majoring in Global Environmental Studies must take a total of 12 GES-approved courses in accordance with the following guidelines, and as stated in the GES Program Guide (linked on the GES website).

Five Core Courses

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

Majors must take a total of 5 core courses from the areas noted below.  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 the remaining breadth fields (more than one course can be taken in the same area).

Core Areas

Core courses develop knowledge in the basic concepts that are used to understand the relations between society and environment. Core courses should be taken at the beginning of your major, since later specialization courses often have pre-requisites and optimal learning in 200-level classes can only be achieved with some foundational learning being already completed.

The GES program’s core courses are divided into 4 types:

  • State of the Earth [one course required]: What are the contemporary relations between society and environment? How do we begin to critically understand these relations?
  • Natural Science [one course required]: What are the earth’s physical, chemical and biological processes that shape the landscapes of the planet?
  • Politics and Economy: How does the economy impact the environment? How do different nations impact the climate? How do governments and social institutions seek to intervene and shape human-environment relations?
  • Culture: How do we understand the environment? What landscapes are protected and why? How do we learn to appreciate and value the living world?

At the end of the major, students should therefore have completed 1 “State of the Earth” course, 1 “Natural Science” course, and a selection of 3 other core courses from any combination of the four types of core courses. Each year, several 000-level and 100-level core courses are identified in this guide. In certain cases, a 200-level course may be used to fulfill a core course requirement, subject to the approval of the student’s GES advisor.

Two Skills Courses

Skills courses develop research, literacy, numeracy, and mapping skills for generating and interpreting knowledge of society environment relations. Students’ selection of skills courses should be made with a strong consideration of how these skills relate to their GES specialization. Students are highly encouraged to discuss this connection between the skills selection and specialization with their GES advisor.

Recommendations are made for particular GES specializations in the GES Program Guide, found on the GES website.

GEOG 141  is strongly recommended for GES majors. It is advised that students complete this course before taking specialization courses, preferably during their sophomore year (particularly if they plan to study abroad). Research Methods is offered at least once per year, typically in the spring semester, and can satisfy one of the Skills course requirements for the major.

Four Specialization Courses

Specialization courses are designed to develop a skill set within a particular set of skills relating to society-environment relations. There are three specializations within the GES major:

  • Political Ecology
  • Climate Change and Sustainability
  • Land and Resources

Students should recognize that these specializations are not discrete, but rather they are intertwined. If certain courses appear relevant to their specialization, they are encouraged to discuss the possibility of incorporating other GES classes into their particular major specialization.

An important rationale behind the specializations within the GES major are the potential vocational and political arenas that our majors might move into. Specialization classes should therefore be selected in dialogue with skills classes. In general, specialization courses should be taken after the relevant core courses have been completed.

Specializations in GES


One Capstone credit is required for the GES major. To meet the Capstone requirement, the student must earn a 200 or 300-level credit that relates to the student’s specialization or area(s) of interest within the major.

The following options can qualify as a capstone based upon the approval of the student’s faculty advisor:

  • Graduate-Level Course (as indicated by a combined 200/300 level status)
  • Human Environment Regional Observatory program (HERO/IDND 299)
  • Directed Study with a faculty advisor (GES 299)
  • Internship or Research Experience (GES 298)
  • Honors Thesis (GES 297)

The student’s faculty advisor is the judge to determine whether any particular credit satisfies the capstone criteria. The advisor will make the judgment based on the purpose of the capstone, which is for the student to integrate content and skills in GES, as applied to a particular topic.

The student must obtain their advisor’s permission on the Capstone Form, and then deliver the form to the Program Administrator before beginning the qualifying activity and before registering for the credit. This capstone credit should be coded as GES (e.g. GES 299) unless it is a graduate level course, or otherwise noted/requested by the faculty advisor.

PLEASE NOTE: It is the student’s responsibility to coordinate all processes necessary outside of the departmental requirements (i.e. internship-for-credit registration, and/or any additional forms required by the University).

Upon completion of the Capstone credit, the student must obtain on the Capstone Form the permission of the professor/supervisor who awards the Capstone credit and then submit the form to the Program Administrator.

Capstone Credit Suggestions

This is not a comprehensive list of capstone credit options. Other seminar, research, and field courses are subject to approval by the student’s advisor.

Double Majoring

All majors must complete 12 GES-approved courses in accordance with the plan described in the Guide to the Major. Two credits at most can count simultaneously for a first and a second major, subject to the approval of the faculty advisor in each department.

University rules that dictate Double majors are in the University’s Blue Book.

Honors in GES

The Honors Program in GES gives eligible students the opportunity to conduct a major research project. Students wishing to pursue Honors in GES must complete a two-semester Honors project conducted under the supervision of two faculty members: the Honors supervisor and the Honors reader. At least one of these faculty members must be a member of the Geography department. Students are encouraged to perform the honors project during the spring semester of the junior year and fall semester of the senior year.

GES Honors is open to juniors who, by the end of the first semester of the junior year, have a minimum grade point average of 3.25 overall and 3.50 in the GES major (an aggregate of all courses counting towards the major), and can obtain the approval of an Honors supervisor and an Honors reader.

For full information on the Honors Program, please view the School of Geography’s Guide to Undergraduate Honors, linked on the GES Website.

Additionally, eligible students may choose to join Clark’s chapter of Gamma Theta Upsilon (GTU), the International Geographical Honors Society. Visit the GTU website to learn more about the benefits of becoming a member.

Global Environmental Studies Faculty


Yuko Aoyama, Ph.D.
Anthony Bebbington, Ph.D.
Asha Best, Ph.D.
Youjin Brigitte Chung, Ph.D.
Mark Davidson, Ph.D.
J. Ronald Eastman, Ph.D.
Lyndon Estes, Ph.D.
Karen Frey, Ph.D.
Dominik Kulakowski, Ph.D.
Deborah Martin, Ph.D.
James McCarthy, Ph.D.
James T. Murphy, Ph.D.
Richard Peet, Ph.D.
Robert Gilmore Pontius Jr, Ph.D.
Samuel Ratick, Ph.D.
Rinku Roy Chowdhury, Ph.D.
John Rogan, Ph.D.
Florencia Sangermano, Ph.D.
Christopher Williams, 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.
Todd Livdahl, Ph.D.
Bruce London, Ph.D.
Paul W. Posner, Ph.D.


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


Jody Emel, Ph.D.
Robert Mitchell, Ph.D.
Dianne Rocheleau, Ph.D.

Off Campus Affiliated

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


Rachel Levitt, GES Program Assistant; Program Administrator in Geography

Global Environmental Studies Courses

Courses offered within the last 2 Academic Years

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