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 of our environmental studies alumni.
- Research Associate
- Data Analyst
- Policy Analyst
- U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry
- Environment Michigan
- The Michigan Agriculture Environmental Assurance Program
- Environmental Working Group
- University of Michigan
- Northwestern University
- The London School of Economics and Political Science
- University of Minnesota
- University of Nairobi
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
Aerin Braunohler (They/She)
Concentration: Environmental Studies
What is the best thing about being part of this department?
How adaptive the courses are to so many different parts of life and worldviews.
What has been your favorite class at K? Why?
Intro to complex systems (PHYS-215)! I am not a physics person, but this class really helped shape my understanding of ecology and its complexity: surprising similarities to other observed relationships between people, animals, molecules, weather patterns, etc.
What experiential education opportunities have you participated in?
Being part of ECO club and working at the arb!
What is your Senior Integrated Project (SIP)?
I am studying the effects different land management methods (mowing, grazing, and burning) have on native vs. non-native plant abundance and soil composition. I am doing this while interning with a grazing company in Kalamazoo, Tending Tilth!
What are your career aspirations/next steps after K?
As of now, I want to work with something in regenerative agriculture.