Department History

In May 1972, the faculty at Macalester College adopted in principle an Environmental Studies (ES) concentration. In spring 1973, a specific proposal was developed and the program began the following fall. Students were required to take 6 courses in one department, 6 supporting courses, and 2 new ES courses - a senior seminar and an introductory course. Students either could graduate with this concentration alone, or they could also obtain a major in the other department (students at Macalester were able to graduate with a concentration only until the late 1990s when the faculty voted to require a major for graduation).

The program was lead by a Coordinator and a Coordinating Committee consisting of a faculty member from the geography, geology, chemistry, political science, economics, and philosophy department. In spring 1982, the Coordinating Committee revised the major and made the requirements more stringent. The new set of requirements, which were continued with only minor modifications until 2000, required students to complete a major (or core) in an approved department, as well as some additional course requirements (Principles of Economics, Physical Geography, Physical Geology and Ecology or Biodiversity), an internship and a senior capstone course.

A new ES Director was hired at the start of the 1998-1999 academic year.  This position was added as part of a general expansion of the size of the faculty during which a number of interdisciplinary programs, including ES, were granted their first “stand alone” positions. New courses were added as requirements:  an introductory Environmental Science course and a junior-level course in Environmental Policy Analayis.  New requirements for the major were also developed..

In 2003-2004 Macalester’s Educational Policy and Governance Committee (EPAG) recommended to the faculty that the current Environmental Studies (ES) Program be converted into an interdisciplinary Environmental Studies Department under criteria previously developed and adopted by EPAG and the faculty. The faculty endorsed the creation of the Department of Environmental Studies, and two professors were hired with specialties in Environmental History and Environmental Policy.  In 2008, a third full-time position was added in the field of Climate Science.  The department is now staffed with 3.5 FTE and will continue to draw on courses from faculty in other departments.

In 2006 the Macalester Faculty approved the development of a minor in Environmental Studies.