Environmental Studies Major | Environmental Studies Minor

General Distribution Requirements

ENVI 120, ENVI 130, ENVI 133, ENVI 140, ENVI 144, ENVI 150, ENVI 160, ENVI 285ENVI 344 and ENVI 360 count toward the general distribution requirement in mathematics and natural science. ENVI 172ENVI 203, ENVI 215, ENVI 225, ENVI 231, ENVI 232ENVI 237, ENVI 252, ENVI 258, ENVI 259, ENVI 270ENVI 275, ENVI 333, ENVI 335ENVI 368, ENVI 375, ENVI 477, and ENVI 478 count toward the general distribution requirement in social science. ENVI 221, ENVI 234, ENVI 236, ENVI 262, ENVI 280ENVI 340, and ENVI 343  count toward the distribution requirement in humanities.

General Education Requirements

Courses that meet the general education requirements in writing, quantitative thinking, internationalism and U.S identities and differences will be posted on the Registrar's web page in advance of registration for each semester. Additional information general distribution requirement and the general education requirements can be found in the graduation requirements section of this catalog.

Advanced Placement

Students who received a score of 4 or 5 on the Advanced Placement (AP) environmental science exam will receive 4 credits towards the College's graduation requirement. Students may then choose to opt out of the introductory courses ENVI 133 - Environmental Science or ENVI 140 - The Earth's Climate System . However, students must still complete two Natural Science courses (beyond the required introductory course) from the approved list of courses below. One of these courses must be a laboratory based course.

Honors Program

The Environmental Studies Department participates in the honors program. Eligibility requirements, application procedures, and specific project expectations for the Environmental Studies Department are available from either the department office or the Director of Academic Programs.

Topics Courses

ENVI 194, ENVI 294, ENVI 394, ENVI 494 

Topics are occasional courses, offered by instructors at their own initiative or in response to student requests. They will be announced at registration. Topics courses, depending on their content, may satisfy major requirements or college distribution requirements. This will be noted in the course description available for registration. (4 credits)

Independent Study

The department offers independent study options in the form of independent projects, internships, preceptorships and Honors independent projects. For more information contact the department and review the Curriculum section of the catalog.

Environmental Studies Major

Major Requirements

The Environmental Studies major has four major components that together form the basis for a robust background for our students.

  1. Introductory Courses: These courses are meant to introduce students to the range of topics and approaches utilized in studying environmental issues.
  2. Intermediate Course: This course is designed to give students an overview of the important texts that scholars and practitioners use as the basis of their understanding of environmental issues and to give students a "real world" experience working in the environmental field. The courses are also meant to allow students to reflect on their goals as Environmental Studies majors.
  3. Capstone Course:  As the capstone course for the ES major, this combined internship and seminar course provides students the opportunity to reflect on their career goals while gaining "real world" experience working for a local nonprofit, agency, or company.  Students reflect on the skills they have gained, network with professions in the field, and chart out a plan for their first five years out of college.

    ENVI 489 - Environmental Leadership Pract/ENVI 490 - Envi St Leadership Seminar

  4. Disciplinary or Interdisciplinary Emphasis:  The emphasis allows stuents to gain depth in a particular disciplinary approach to examining environmental issues or in a particular environmental theme or problem considered from an interdisciplinary perspective.  The emphasis includes a series of six courses to provide depth and a methods course to insure students have the appropriate "tools" to implement their area of study.

The Environmental Studies major consists of 9 - 10 courses (40 credits) in environmental studies and related subjects plus a 7-course emphasis. Since some double counting of courses is allowed, a minimum of 15 courses (60 credits) is required for the major.

The ten course requirement is distributed as follows:

Introductory Courses: Must take 3

Required Environmental Studies Courses:  3 courses

Distribution Courses: Introductory environmental studies courses may be distributed as follows:

One Natural Science course (beyond the required introductory course): Pre-approved courses include:

One Social Science Course: Pre-approved courses include:

One Humanities Course: Pre-approved courses include:

Capstone Course: The senior capstone requirement in Environmental Studies will be satisfied by completing ENVI 489 - Environmental Leadership Pract/ENVI 490 - Envi St Leadership Seminar.

Disciplinary or Interdisciplinary emphasis of seven courses:

Disciplinary Option

  • 6 courses in a discipline, 2 must be 300 or 400 level courses
  • 1 methods course related to the focus of the emphasis

*Disciplinary emphases in departments other than those listed below must be approved by the chair.

Interdisciplinary Option

  • 6 courses organized around a clear theme or environmental problem, 2 must be 300 or 400 level courses
  • 1 methods course related to the focus of the emphasis

*All interdisciplinary emphasis plans should be designed in consultation with members of the Environmental Studies Department and must be approved by the Chair.

*Introductory environmental studies courses may not be counted.

Preapproved Disciplinary Emphases





Educational Studies

The above will also fulfill requirements for a minor in Educational Studies. The added course to complete an Educational Studies major will be EDUC 380 - Research Methods for Education and Advocacy .



A total of 6 courses in the Geology Department must be taken to complete an emphasis in Geology. These courses should be selected after discussion with a faculty member in the Geology Department. There is no single required course, but we expect at least 3 courses will be at or above the 200-level. Note: A Geology minor is 5 courses, with GEOL 160 and GEOL 165 required.

No more than 3 courses can be taken at the 100-level.

Recommended courses:

At least 3 courses at the 200+ level.

Recommended courses:

1 required Methods course - choose from:


  • At least 4 of the 7 required courses should be cross-listed between history and ES (or otherwise have a clear environmental focus).
  • Methods: Any of Prof. Chris Wells' 300-level courses or HIST 379 - The Study of History 

Mathematics/Computer Science



One 400 level course required.

Political Science

3 required courses:

4 courses from this list depending on the student's interest in domestic or international issues (others may be applicable):


Preapproved Interdisciplinary Emphases

Climate Science and Policy

Consensus is growing on the national and international scale that climate change is real and urgent action is needed. However, responses differ among policy makers and other actors about the methods we should use to implement energy efficiency and renewable energy solutions. This interdisciplinary emphasis examines the climate change problem and the most effective policy and development options for carbon mitigation strategies. Students can opt for a emphasis that weighs more heavily on either the science or policy dimensions.

4 required courses:

2 elective courses:

1 required Methods course - choose from:

Potential Study Away Options:

  • HECUA - Minnesota - Environmental Sustainability: Science, Public Policy and Community Action
  • SIS - Iceland summer program
  • Macalester South Africa Program
  • SEA-Semester at Sea (Oceans and Climate voyage or other)

Communication Studies

Communication of environmental ideas and beliefs by individuals, institutions, societies, and cultures are central to the definition and solution of environmental problems. This emphasis focuses on how environmental messages and media (traditional and social media) are crafted, distributed, and received.  This includes a wide range of themes including journalism, social marketing, risk communication and collaboration and conflict.

4 required courses:

2 elective courses:

1 required Methods course:

NOTE:  It is understood that students will seek out opportunities to develop environmental themes in their project/portfolio work in the non-ES courses.

Community and Global Health

The emphasis in Community and Global Health (CGH) aims to connect the Environmental Studies major with the College's Concentration in Community and Global Health. Environmental conditions are known to have a significant impact on human health. Students in the CGH emphasis receive an introduction to the issues involved in health issues and then can take a broad interdisciplinary approach to these issues or tailor the emphasis with a focus on science, social science or humanities.

3 required courses:

Any 3 of the Following:

1 required Methods course:

Environmental Justice

Poor and minority populations have historically borne the brunt of environmental inequalities in the United States, suffering disproportionately from the effects of pollution, dispossession of land, resource depletion, dangerous jobs, limited access to common resources, and exposure to environmental hazards. This interdisciplinary emphasis focuses on the ways that race, ethnicity, class, and gender have shaped the political and economic dimensions of environmental injustices, along with more recent political movements pushing to rectify environmental injustices and to develop new possibilities for understanding the human place in nature.

3 required core courses:

3 elective core courses:

1 required Methods course - choose from:

Environmental Science

From water scarcity to toxics exposure to climate change, scientific understanding is a crucial component of assessing and addressing the major environmental issues facing the world. This interdisciplinary emphasis provides a background in the physical and natural sciences most closely tied to environmental issues. Students also acquire further specialization in one area of their choosing.

5 required core courses:

3 elective core courses:

  • At least three other Science courses within one discipline (BIOL, CHEM, GEOL, PHYS)

Food Systems

The food system emphasis allows focus on an interconnected set of biological, technological, economic, and social issues that connect to how food systems work.  Food system topics include small and large scale food production, access and consumption issues as well as a concern for the biophysical properties to agroecological systems.

3 required courses:

3 electives from this list in consultation with your advisor:

1 Method courses - choose from:

  • TBD in consultation with your advisor.

International Environment and Development

This interdisciplinary emphasis focuses on the concept of sustainable development by tracing historical and contemporary understandings of wealth and resource distribution within and between countries.  These courses provide students with a grounding in the economic, political, and cultural conceptions of development, focusing on states in the Global South.

1 required course:

5 elective core courses:

1 required Methods course - choose from:

Sustainable Design

By marshaling natural resources in creative ways and on an unprecedented scale, industrial nations have developed new methods of converting the raw materials of nature--wood and metal, soil and water, coal and oil--into an economy capable of delivering fantastic comfort, abundance, and convenience to a steadily growing number of people. Yet the material advances of the industrial revolution are also directly responsible for many of the most serious environmental problems that now confront humanity. This interdisciplinary emphasis combines coursework at Macalester and DIS - Copenhagen to develop the skills of sustainable design: the active attempt to re-design the material world in ways that mitigate or eliminate the negative environmental impact of the buildings, products, and industrial systems on which the modern world relies. 

Environmental Studies Minor

Minor Requirements

Five courses (20 credits) are required for a minor in environmental studies: two from the introductory sequence (ENVI 133 , ENVI 140, ENVI 215, or ENVI 234) and three additional environmental studies courses, not including internships or independent studies, selected in consultation with a department faculty member and approved by the department chair.