2011-2012 Academic Catalog 
    Feb 21, 2024  
2011-2012 Academic Catalog [ARCHIVED CATALOG]

Global Environmental Studies Major

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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? How can we reverse biodiversity decline? Is biotechnology safe for humans and other species? Can 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 use of the environment in multiple locations with different climates, histories, economies and governing regimes. Students will learn the histories, geographies and strategies of major social movements which have fought for environmental protection, cultural survival, biodiversity, food security, common property and equitable distribution of resources.

The international community needs professionals with a breadth of understanding of today’s complex reality. Students with an understanding of international political economy, global environmental change, environmental information systems, environmental law and policy, geographic information systems, gender and environment, and social theory will be able to go into media, finance, law, advocacy, government, civil-society organizations or corporations with the knowledge and skills necessary for shaping sustainable livelihoods.

For details regarding the major or minor, students should consult the Guide to the Major/Minor, which is available on our Web site at http://www.clarku.edu/departments/ges/.

The Clark Advantage

Global Environmental Studies (GES) majors, Geography majors and Environmental Science (ES) majors concentrating in Earth Systems 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 tuition-free, 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.

GES, Geography, 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 GES, Geography, 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 periodically have group gatherings to discuss topics of interest to geography majors, such as research, internships, courses and future jobs.

Gamma Theta Upsilon is an elite international honor society; initiates must have completed a minimum of three geography courses, have a B+ average in geography, rank in the upper 35% of their class, and have completed at least three semesters or five quarters of college course work. For more information on Gamma Theta Upsilon please see their Web site at: http://www.gammathetaupsilon.org/

Emeriti Faculty

Robert Mitchell, Ph.D.

Off Campus Affiliated Faculty

Scott Jiusto, Ph.D - Worcester Polytechnic Institute

Rob Krueger, Ph.D - Worcester Polytechnic Institute


Program 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 seminar or internship. GES majors are required to take a minimum of 12 interdepartmental courses in accordance with the following guidelines:

Breadth Requirement

(Five courses) Environmental problems and solutions result from economic systems, governments, international institutions, cultural systems, social movements and ecological systems. Breadth courses emphasize the basic concepts of the Global Environmental Studies Major and ways of creating knowledge. Courses in the breadth area are designed to help you build frameworks for understanding the world. We strongly encourage you to take your breadth courses early in your program, because these courses are often prerequisites for 200-level courses. Majors must take 5 breath courses which are selected from the following broad disciplinary areas. Students must take one course from State of the Earth and one course from Natural Science. The remaining three courses can be chosen from the four remaining areas: Economics/Political Economy of the Environment; Government/Institutions; Civil Society and Social Movements; and Culture and Environment.

Skills Requirement

(Two Courses) 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 and are encouraged to take more. GES 141 - Research Design and Methods in Geography  is strongly recommended for all GES majors unless the student obtains permission from the advisor. Exceptions may be granted on a case-by-case basis, especially for those students who take a humanities-based approach to the major. The second required course should be intellectually compatible with the “depth” area.

Depth Requirement

(Four Courses) 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 determined by the student and advisor through development of the learning plan (see below). Suggested depth areas include the following: Sustainability Science; Culture and Political Ecology; Urban Industrial Ecology and Urban Environmental Problems; Environmental Risks and Hazards; Resource Management; Land-Change and Land-Degradation Science; Art and the Environment; and Energy and the Environment.


(One Course) 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 are also encouraged and count as capstone experiences.

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 coordinator, as well as by the student.

In addition by January 31 of the senior year, each student must complete a learning synopsis. 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) defining and describing concepts of sustainability, economic and social justice in a global context 4) identifying specific problem/issue of global environmental significance and discussing comprehensive approach to solutions; and 5) mastery of appropriate skills. The synopsis must be developed in consultation with, and signed by, two GES faculty.

Internships and Study Abroad

Students are strongly encouraged to do internships with local, state, federal and international governments, and social movement 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 for study abroad, students must work with faculty advisers or other departmental and affiliate professors.

Requirements for the Dual Major

In accordance with university guidelines, the requirements for a dual major are identical to those of the individual major. Two courses may be double-counted towards both majors. Students may not, at this time, double major in global environmental studies and geography.

Course Layout:

I. Breadth Requirement (Total of five courses)

C. Economics/Political Economy of the Environment (Choose one of the following courses:)

III. Depth Component

(Students must take four courses in a substantive area, two of which must be at the 200 level) SUGGESTED DEPTH AREAS INCLUDE THE FOLLOWING:

C. Urban-Industrial Ecology and Urban Environmental Problems

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