Environmental Studies

Concentration

Environmental Studies Department Website

Why Learn Environmental Studies at K?

At K you will explore the relationship between nature and society and learn how to direct the future of global environmental stewardship through scientific research, community activism, and political change.

The department takes a comprehensive approach to environmental studies, acknowledging that environmental and resource problems are not just biological, geological, economic, or political issues. Instead, the concentration is designed to pool the knowledge of each discipline for a more holistic approach to learning so that you have the tools to assess, analyze, and evaluate the globe’s most pressing environmental problems. 

You will learn these skills by taking a variety of courses in anthropology and sociology, political science, economics, art and art history, English, biology, history, philosophy, and, of course, environmental science. In natural science (e.g., Environmental Science), social science (e.g., Environmental and Resource Economics; and Nature and Society: Intro to Political Ecology), and art and humanity courses (e.g., Art and Environmental Justice; and World Indigenous Literatures) you will explore the ecological components of nature, the causes and consequences of natural or man-made disasters, and how to address future environmental challenges.

Integrating your concentration into your K-Plan, you are also encouraged to supplement your studies with experiential learning opportunities, such as campus sustainability work, maintaining the College’s growing spaces, and partnering with professors in their research. Many students even choose to complete their Senior Integrated Project in environmental studies, often using the College’s arboretum to ground their art, project, or research. 

Additionally, you will have the opportunity to participate in an environmentally-minded study abroad program: explore the Galapagos Islands in Ecuador, learn about sustainable development in Cosa Rica, engage in community-centered conservation in Mexico, or travel across local agricultural communities in Thailand. 

These experiences and lessons will prepare you for a wide range of environmental fields, with alumni having had successful careers in law, government, research, and education.  

What can you do with an Environmental Studies concentration?

Below are some of the careers, employers, and graduate schools our environmental studies alumni have worked for.

Careers

  • Research Associate
  • Veterinarian
  • Data Analyst
  • Attorney
  • Policy Analyst

Employers

  • U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry
  • Merck
  • Environment Michigan
  • The Michigan Agriculture Environmental Assurance Program
  • Environmental Working Group

Graduate Schools

  • University of Michigan
  • Northwestern University
  • The London School of Economics and Political Science
  • University of Minnesota
  • University of Nairobi

Program Spotlights

Connect, conserve, and learn from nature in the College’s arboretum

The College maintains and invites the community to visit the Lillian Anderson Arboretum, 140 acres of marsh, meadow, pine plantation, and second-growth deciduous forest. As a concentrator, you form a connection with this land as you use it as an outdoor classroom for hands-on learning, a place to practice environmental stewardship through paid conservation positions, and as a living laboratory in which to further environmental studies research.

Take your environmental studies across the globe

While you can choose from any of the College’s 50+ study abroad programs and transfer relevant classes, four programs offer unique experiences for environmental studies students: research ecology exactly as Darwin did in the Galapagos Islands in Ecuador; learn about sustainable development in San José, Costa Rica; participate in community-organized cultural and land-based preservation projects in Oaxaca, Mexico, or study and observe sustainable ecological development in Chiang Mai, Thailand.

Apply your studies in your Senior Integrated Project (SIP) and fellowships

As a concentrator, you will engage in meaningful research and work through your SIP or Summer Environmental Stewardship Fellowship. Fellowships are a chance to get paid to work on stewardship and sustainability projects in our community; whereas your SIP is a capstone project where you can conduct research, reflect on nature, create art, or implement conservation projects. For example, Aidan Voss ‘20 explored the relationship between land and consumerism through art in her SIP, “Reciprocal Relationship Building as a Way of Resistance and Resiliency.”

Meet the Current Departmental Student Advisor

Bella Kirchgessner

Bella Kirchgessner (She/They)

Major: Economics

Minor: Anthropology and Sociology

Concentration: Environmental Studies and Public Policy and Urban Affairs

What is the best thing about being part of this department?

I appreciate how many different avenues and pathways weave into the Environmental Studies Concentration.

What has been your favorite class at K? Why?

One of my favorite classes I’ve taken at K has been “Experiential Pathways in Food and Farming Justice” with Amy Newday. I liked how intimate and discussion-based the class was. I feel like I had the opportunity to really push my perspective in how I thought about the U.S. food system. For my final project, I worked with my grandma developing a family recipe book. It is so special knowing that is something we will have together and that can be passed down to future generations.

What experiential education opportunities have you participated in?

Tutor and after-school assistant at Woodward Elementary, Just Food Collective member (and CES [Civic Engagement Scholar] for next year), Center for Environmental Stewardship Summer Fellow (2), Internship at Lisu Cultural Heritage Center, Outing Club/Outdoor Programs member (2022 Landsea leader), Teacher’s Assistant for Experiential Pathways in Food and Farming Justice.

What is your Senior Integrated Project (SIP)?

My SIP, currently, is focused around applying seed activist Vandana Shiva’s ideas around “reclamation of the commons” to what Kalamazoo College seed work could look like and ethical guidelines to follow in the future.

What are your career aspirations/next steps after K?

After undergrad, I want to take some time to do more world traveling and work towards a career in education (either in academia or non-profit work) focused around Food/Farming Anthropology.

Environmental Studies Department News