2019-2020 Academic Catalog 
    Dec 03, 2023  
2019-2020 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

Capstone Requirement in Global Environmental Studies

One Capstone credit is required for the GES major. At the university level, a capstone is defined as an experience - a course in the major or an independent project - through which students apply integrative learning. A capstone requires a complex individual or group project that is substantially defined and carried forward by the student and demonstrates accomplishment of Clark’s Liberal Education goals, especially a capacity to practice within an academic or professional field effectively.

To meet the Capstone requirement in the GES major, the student must earn a 200 or 300 level credit that relates to the student’s specialization. Consistent with the diversity of topics and methods in the three areas of specialization, GES students may choose from multiple paths to earning the capstone credit, subject to the approval of their capstone advisor. The student’s capstone advisor will help determine how any particular credit satisfies the capstone criteria. The advisor will make this determination 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.

Capstone Types

  1. A project completed in a specialization course (200/300 level)
  2. Research experience (GES 299)
    • Directed Study with a faculty advisor (GES 299)
    • Research conducted through the Human Environment Regional Observatory (HERO) program, Forest Ecology Research Lab (FERL) work, Biogeosciences Research Group, Extractive Industries Research Group, or the Polar Science Research Laboratory
  3. Internship (GES 298)
  4. Honors thesis (GES 297)

Additionally, Geography 141, strongly recommended of all majors, trains students in the fundamentals of Research Design and Methods and proposal writing, which broadly prepares students to conceptualize, design and conduct original research relevant to a capstone experience across all three specialization areas.

1. A specialization course (200/300 level)

A number of courses at the 200/300 level fulfill our capstone requirement across our specializations in Political Ecology, Climate Change and Sustainability, and Land and Resource Management. Several of these courses have pre-requisites within the respective specialization areas, in which students are expected to have developed relevant topical and methodological knowledge upon which they can build their capstone project.

2. Research experience (GES 299)

Students may enroll in directed study for a research experience during the course of the semester. They may do so via two main avenues:

  • An individual/independent research project conducted under the supervision of a faculty member. Student typically enroll in GES 299 during the completion of the work.
  • Work done in collaboration with a research group or team, for instance, in which students may contribute as a research assistant. Examples of such projects and research teams include (but are not limited to): Human Environment Regional Observatory (HERO) program; Forest Ecology Research Lab (FERL); Biogeosciences Research Group; Extractive Industries Research Group; and the Polar Science Research Laboratory. Most such research opportunities have a separate, competitive application process. Students accepted into these research teams/groups will be advised on how to register for academic (and capstone) credit.

3. Internship (GES 298)

Students completing an on/off campus internship or LEEP project related to their GES major are encouraged to consider developing a capstone through that planned work. To do so, they must identify a faculty sponsor and apply to the Career Connections Center for academic credit the semester before the internship commences. The internship must directly contribute to the student’s experiential learning relevant to their chosen specialization field. Once the internship is completed, the student should submit a synopsis of their internship experience or other materials as agreed on with their faculty sponsor and the Career Connections Center .

4. Honors thesis (GES 297)

The honors program in GES provides eligible students with the opportunity to conduct a major independent research project. For further information about the honors program and eligibility criteria, please refer to the “Honors in GES” section below.


Capstone Form and process: Each student proposing a capstone needs identify a faculty advisor for the capstone, Before registration for the 200-level credit and beginning the qualifying activity, the student must complete and submit the Capstone Form under their advisor’s guidance. The student and their capstone faculty sponsor sign the form, obtain the GES program advisor’s signature, and submit the completed form to the Program Administrator. Towards the end of the semester or upon completion of the capstone work, the form is then updated, signed by all parties and then resubmitted. It is the student’s responsibility to coordinate all processes necessary outside of the departmental requirements (i.e. internship registration, any other Clark forms needed, etc.).


All students completing capstones are strongly encouraged to present their work (e.g., as a poster or presentation) during Academic Spree Day or Fall Fest. They are also required to complete the capstone survey following the completion of their capstone, and before graduation.

Double Majoring

All majors must complete 12 GES 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 can be found on the Academic Advising website.

Honors Program in Global Environmental Studies

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. The Honors Program is open to junior GES majors who have a minimum grade point average of 3.25 overall and 3.50 in major (cumulative GPA from all GES courses completed so far), and who have an intended honors supervisor who has agreed to supervise the project throughout the academic year.

For full information on the Honors Program, please view the Geography Guide to Undergraduate Honors, linked on the GES website.

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.


Rachel Levitt, Program Administrator in Geography

Global Environmental Studies Courses

Courses offered within the last 2 Academic Years

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