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Environmental Studies and Sustainability

Emphasis of the Program

The aim of the Environmental Studies and Sustainability (ESTS) major is to prepare students for a breadth of careers that address environmental problems. Because the field of environmental studies is so diverse, students have a great deal of flexibility in shaping the program to their specific needs and interests.

Whether focusing more on the science behind environmental issues or the policies that lead to sustainable human communities, all students will take a breadth of basic courses in science, social science and humanities early in the program. Thus, students with a focus on policy will be more effective lawyers, politicians, or advocates. Likewise, students interested in science-oriented careers will gain the perspective and context provided by the social science courses. Economic, social, and political realities often constrain the solutions offered by science alone.

As the student begins to refine his or her interests, s/he chooses from a menu of upper-level courses in science, social science, and humanities. Several of the courses (Introduction to Environmental Studies and Sustainability, Environmental Economics, Environmental Politics, Environmental Ethics) were designed specifically for the program. Finally, all participants in the program are required to complete an independent research project in a department of their choice. The capstone independent research experience enables students to investigate in-depth an environmental problem of particular interest to them.

Environmental Studies and Sustainability Minor

The minor is designed for students whose primary focus is in a different discipline but who have a desire to contribute to understanding and addressing environmental issues, either personally, professionally, or both. Beyond a broad introduction to environmental issues in ESTS 103, students select from upper-division courses in the sciences, social sciences, and humanities to suit their particular interests. Some of these courses will require prerequisites, but many of these are met for other major programs, for instance in business or political science. The minor is intentionally flexible and consists of 4-6 courses depending on the student’s prior coursework and background.

Equipment & Facilities

Because the program is interdisciplinary, it makes use of classrooms and labs throughout the campus. The sciences at Monmouth have a tradition of intensive hands-on laboratory work and Monmouth College is well equipped to support such work in our new Center for Science and Business. Boats for exploring local aquatic environments such as the Mississippi River, Citizen’s Lake, and Lake Warren are available to assist in water quality testing and fish sampling. Other field equipment such as live traps for mammals and other vertebrates and invertebrates and tools to manage controlled prairie burns are also used in courses such as Ecology and Conservation Biology.

The Educational Garden and College farm offer environmental science and sustainability students opportunities to be involved in sustainable and organic food production as well. Two "green" Citizenship courses often are chosen by Environmental Studies majors to get hands-on experience in tackling real-world environmental issues in agriculture, water quality, and other areas of interest such as sustainable energy.

The LeSuer Nature Preserve, a short 15-minute walk from campus, is also used for field studies, course projects, and senior research. Several acres have been restored to native prairie and a large stream bisects the area. Riparian and flood plain forest also offer abundant opportunities for research in the expanding field of ecological restoration. The College also maintains a small, fresh-water pond and a one-acre native prairie plot for field projects.

Career Opportunities

The Environmental Studies major is intended to give students a broad yet firm foundation that can be used as a springboard to graduate/professional school or employment. The environmental field is extremely broad, ranging from environmental chemistry to wildlife management to environmental engineering to environmental law.

Students choosing the science concentration can emphasize biology, chemistry, or physics as all three disciplines have special fields related to environmental issues (e.g., conservation, toxicology, climatology).

Therefore, we think it is important for students as soon as possible to attempt to define their interests in the environment. What is it they hope to do? Environmental monitoring? Toxicology? Engineering? Natural resource management? Advocacy? Law? Politics? Do they hope to go directly into employment, or into graduate/professional school? Depending on the students' specific interests, they can appropriately plan their elective course work and plan to do research and/or internships along the lines of their interests.

Off-campus Programs and Field Trips

Semester programs

ACM Tropical Field Research program: A semester-long program in Costa Rica. A month-long orientation prepares students through intensive language training and review of field methodology. Thereafter, students can conduct research in a diversity of Costa Rica's ecological zones. Numerous work/research internships involving environmental problems are available.

ACM Tanzania Human Evolution and Ecology: This fall semester program begins with two months at the University of Dar es Salaam. Students are immersed in language study (Swahili) and courses in ecology and human evolution. Students choose a research topic in one of these two areas and travel to the Serengeti (or Olduvai Gorge/Laetoli human fossil sites) for their field work.

ACM Culture and Society in Africa (Botswana) Program: Located at the University of Botswana in Gaborone, this interdisciplinary program gives students the opportunity to experience the breadth of Botswana society and to study its culture, language, politics, and socioeconomic structures. Courses include: a program director’s course, taught by a visiting faculty member from an ACM college in their own area of academic expertise, a Setswana language course, taught by professors from the African Languages department, an elective at the University of Botswana chosen from a menu of options (taught by University of Botswana faculty), and an independent study project. The program will be enriched by several field trips. Students will live in international graduate student housing.

ACM Brazil (2013): This program offers students an opportunity to study for a semester at the Universidade Federal de Juiz de Fora (UFJF), one of Brazil's best-regarded universities. A wide variety of subject areas in the arts, humanities, sciences, environmental students and social sciences, as well as intensive Portuguese language, are offered. One option of this program focuses on environmental studies with an interdisciplinary, cross-cultural context. With the program’s global perspective, studies can explore the interaction among environmental, agricultural, social, economic, and political forces, and the different solutions to environmental issues that may emerge in other regions and cultures.

Short Trips

Field-oriented courses at Monmouth College (e.g., Ecology, Field Botany, Conservation Biology) make frequent use of LeSuer Nature Preserve, Spring Grove Prairie and other local settings. Courses may include weekend trips to farther destinations such as southern Illinois and Nachusa Prairie.

Short courses of 8-14 days are often offered over spring break or in May after classes conclude. Students have traveled to Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands, Hawaii, the southwest deserts and Grand Canyon, Costa Rica, and Panama to study unique ecosystems and environmental issues in those regions.

Graduate School Opportunities

There are numerous graduate/professional programs available in environmental science/policy and in specific areas of environmental studies (wildlife, toxicology, etc.). Most Environmental Studies graduates continue on to do work in graduate school in one of these specific areas.

Some examples of Environmental Studies graduates:

  • Amanda Harwood – Professor, Benedictine College
  • Karl Riber – Deputy Country Director, ACF (Action Against Hunger), Zimbabwe
  • Tom Nagawiecki – M.S., Environmental Services Specialist, Los Alamos County, NM
  • Elaine Durr -- M.S.; sustainability coordinator, Elon College
  • Jason Johnson – Kane County Forest Preserve, Senior Restoration Technician
  • Stephanie Brown -- Environmental Consulting, architectural firm
  • Ann Maksymowicz -- M.S. Women's Studies, social work
  • Sandra Nickel -- Water Quality, Lake Monitoring, Illinois EPA
  • Bill Van Leeuwen -- Chemical Waste Disposal
  • Mark Hertko -- M.A., Biology/Chemistry teacher, Leadership and Public Service High School
  • Andrea Bostwick -- M.S., Environmental Compliance, Engineering
  • Colleen Zumpf – Graduate student at Governor’s State University, M.S. Environmental Biology

  • Logan Simpson – Pricing Analyst, Share Builders