2017-2018 Academic Catalog 
    Oct 27, 2021  
2017-2018 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

GES majors will take a total of 12 courses/credits in accordance with the following guidelines.

Core Course 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. 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.

Skills Requirement (2 courses required)

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 Research Design and Methods in Geography is strongly encouraged for the GES major. 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.

A student may be granted permission to substitute another skills class for GEOG 141 by their GES advisor. This permission usually appertains to GES students taking a humanities-based approach to the major.

Specialization Course Requirement (4 courses required)

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.

Specialization Areas


One Capstone credit is required for the GES major. To meet the Capstone requirement, the student must earn a 200-level credit that relates to the student’s specialization.

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

  • A graduate level course as indicated by a combined 200/300 level status
  • Human Environment Regional Observatory (HERO) program, Forest Ecology Research Lab (FERL) work, or the Polaris Project
  • Directed Study with a faculty advisor (GES 299/IDND 299)
  • Internship (GES 298)
  • Honors thesis (GES 297)
  • Research credit (GES 299/IDND 299)

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 Undergraduate Program Coordinator before beginning the qualifying activity and before registration for the 200-level credit.

It is also the student’s responsibility to coordinate all processes necessary outside of the departmental requirements (i.e. internship registration, any other Clark forms needed, etc.).

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 Assistant.

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.

Internships and Study Abroad

Students are urged to take advantage of internship opportunities. Please view our Careers and Opportunities website,* or contact Career Services to learn more about possible opportunities. If students satisfy the requirements for the internship to count as an academic credit at Clark, then the internship can count as a Specialization Course or Capstone toward the Major, subject to the approval of the Advisor.

Career Services can be reached at 508.793.7258 or careers@clarku.edu.

The GES program also encourages students to spend at least one semester studying abroad, which is an added reason to consult your advisor early in your program. For more information, contact the Study Abroad office at 508.793.7363 or studyabroad@clarku.edu.

Requirements for the Dual Major

If students are double majors, 2 courses may be cross-counted with the GES major and minor. However, within the program, each GES course can satisfy only one requirement for the major or minor, meaning that no course can count in two areas toward the major or minor.

Honors Program

The Honors Program in GES gives eligible students the opportunity to conduct a major research project. To graduate with honors, a student 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, 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. Applications can also be found at the same link.

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


Anthony Bebbington, Ph.D.
Asha Best, Ph.D.
Mark Davidson, Ph.D.
J. Ronald Eastman, Ph.D.
Jody Emel, Ph.D.
Lyndon Estes, Ph.D.
Karen Frey, 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.


Dianne Rocheleau, 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

Courses offered within the last 2 Academic Years

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