M.A.C.S. Environmental Studies Courses

ENV 610: Cultural Geography and Land Management (3 credits) This course introduces students to the importance of spatial dimensions and relations in social organization, incorporating social and cultural meanings of space and place and political and economic implications into land management practice and policy.  The course surveys basic concepts in geography, including cultural-settlement patterns, land-use patterns, sense of place, populations and demographics, regionalization, agriculture and rural development, urbanization and industrialization, the political economy of natural resources, and the social production of space.  The course explores these topics in the framework of land-use policy and management and illustrates the use of legal instruments such as conservation easements, political structures such as protected areas and bio reserves, economic incentives in ecotourism, and digital technologies such as geographic information systems (GIS).  

ENV 612: Energy, Natural Resource Management, and the Environment (3 credits) This course covers a wide spectrum of topics on energy and natural resource management from a public-policy and environmental-affairs approach.  In the course students will investigate the politics, economics, and impacts of renewable and fossil-fuel energy sources, energy policy, energy efficiency, waste, restoration, environmental technology, public finance and investment, and environmental law and regulations. 

ENV 615: The Environment & the Media (3 credits) Offered in two sections-Environmental Communication and  Critical Analysis-the common core of this course introduces students to the role of the media and communications in articulating environmental claims, issues, and challenges. 

  • Section A
    • Environmental communication will explore techniques for communicating across social and political differences, expressing complex technical issues, mediating contentious issues, and managing crisis rhetoric.  Students will investigate effective and innovative strategies of communication through both traditional and new media formats and outlets.
  • Section B
    • Critical analysis will be focused on understanding multiple points of view, developing scientific literacy, and identifying sources and forms of bias and misrepresentation.  Students will evaluate popular environmental discourse and analyze environmental rhetoric.

ENV 618: Environmental Education (3 credits) This course investigates the role of education in solving environmental problems and developing environmental literacy.  Students will explore models of environmental education, how environmental education manifests across sectors (in nonprofit, academic, for-profit and government contexts), best practices in environmental-education program planning, and community-based environmental education.

ENV 622: Environmental Justice (3 credits) This course examines environmental inequity, in particular how race and socioeconomic status are related to environmental problems faced by communities. We will investigate patterns of environmental inequity, injustice, and racism as well as grassroots and community-based efforts to deal with environmental threats. 

ENV 623: Environment, Culture, and Community (3 credits) This course explores the interrelations and interdependencies of environment, culture, and community.  Beginning with the current state of the world and its sustainability crisis, we will explore global environmental issues and topics, focusing on cultural and community impacts.  Students will be exposed to a range of domestic, international, rural, and urban theaters of conflict and change, as well as the complex political, social, scientific, and methodological challenges of working at the intersection of environment, culture, and community.  

ENV 621: Environmental Governance (3 credits) This course approaches environmental governance from a multi-level perspective, including community-based environmental management, and policy and governance structures formally represented in institutions as well as adaptive and emergent forms shaped in response to decentralized negotiations over decisions and access to resources.  In addition to this multilevel framework, the course will focus on the process of policy making, decision analysis, the problem of scaling, and the techniques of scenario planning.  It will present basic concepts and illustrate real-world concerns in case studies.  

ENV 624: Environmental Research (6 credits)  This research and methods course is offered in four 1.5 credit-hour sections: Science & Philosophy; Systems Thinking and Modeling; Research Methods; and Evaluating Claims-all of which are required, in any sequence.  The course is designed to ground students in the qualitative and quantitative bases of research methodology, with the dual goal of training students to interpret, evaluate, communicate, and use scientific-research findings as well as design and conduct social science research projects. 

  • Section A
      • Science and Philosophy introduces students to the scientific method and philosophical traditions, including positivism, phenomenology, and pragmatism, and debates between realism, instrumentalism, and constructivism deeply informing our approaches, assumptions, and understanding of environmental issues, problems, and solutions.
  • Section B
    • Systems Thinking and Modeling introduces students to the concept of systems thinking, design thinking, nonlinear dynamics, thresholds, uncertainty and surprise, and the importance and application of feedback loops in ecosystems, built-environment impacts, and human ecology.  In this class, students will learn to develop models as useful technologies and tools in socioecological analysis. 
  • Section C
    • Research Methods instructs students in formulating research questions and designing methods to measure, sample, or model them.  This section includes both quantitative and qualitative methods, such as surveys, ethnography, case study, and participatory-action research.  In this class, students will develop a research proposal.
  • Section D
    • Evaluating Claims presents case studies and critical analysis of research claims by examining the premises, logic, and application of method, as well as the validity and quality of the data.  Students will develop quantitative literacy for understanding scientific models (mathematical, population dynamic, and dimensional) and their underlying principles and notational conventions as tools that organize data, define parameters, clarify processes, and enable predictions.

ENV 627: Environmental Social Science (3 credits) This course is designed to introduce students to environmental social science approaches and concepts, including: the relationship between society, politics, and the environment; social processes and their iterative and reciprocal effects on the environment; factors that shape interactions between humans and the environment; the challenges and implications of decision making, policy, and governance; and social science research methods applied to environmental issues.  

ENV 630: Public Participation (3 credits) This course introduces students to the critical role of public engagement with issues that have a bearing on communities directly affected by adverse environmental impacts, such as environmental health, food security, and resource allocation.  It will build upon approaches and topics studied in other offerings in this curriculum on social science methods, governance, and environmental justice.  We will examine power and stakeholders, learning to map the scope of interests and spheres of influence of stakeholders and developing the practical skill at managing a stakeholder process.  We will survey different types of public participation in the political process, including public comment, community organization, citizen science, and the co-production of knowledge.  This course emphasizes practical application of public engagement and participation techniques in the context of heterogeneous communities with different cultural worldviews and priorities.  

ENV 633: Environmental Sustainability & Resilience (3 credits) Sustainability and resilience are the environmental watchwords of our time and key, integrative frameworks for environmental studies.  Sustainability appeals to conservation, preservation, and mitigation efforts, while resilience prepares for change.  This course is solutions oriented and designed for students to examine and critically assess alternative approaches to environmental challenges and social change.  Topics in this course will include scales of sustainability, adaptation, and mitigation (e.g., climate change); consumption and production; quality-of-life indicators (Genuine Progress Indicators) as alternatives to gross domestic product (GDP); the precautionary principle; and developing solutions focused on survival, security, and equity.   

ENV 634: Environment, Development, and Economics (3 credits) This course examines how natural resources intersect with social and economic-development initiatives.  We will review the different kinds of natural resources and review case studies of both successes and failures in regard to sustainable use and community benefits.  Special attention will be paid to community-based initiatives and examples of inclusive decision making and policy design.

ENV 637: Environmental Change: Causes and Impacts (3 credits) This course examines the driving forces and impacts of a variety of environmental challenges, and geophysical and geopolitical ties that bind communities together around the world.  Students will better understand the social, economic, and biological landscape that we face globally today.  They will also understand how these forces of environmental change also fuel conflicts, public health issues, poverty, and vulnerability in communities.  Case studies of successful mitigation and resilience will be provided and discussed to provide students with awareness and appreciation for what is being done in response to these issues. 

ENV 640: Risk and Society (3 credits) This course introduces students to the field of environmental risk and its construction and representation as a complex of interweaving ecological, social, economic, statutory and political factors.  The course will consider the process of risk assessment and analysis, as well as risk communication and management, in contexts such as public administration and public health. 

ENV 689: Independent Study (1-4 credits) This option allows students to determine and submit a self-directed research and/or creative project. Students will present a statement of rationale to the academic director for approval based on the value of the study within the student's overall educational objectives for the program and the overall goals of the M.A.E.S. program. 

ENV 695: Environmental Studies Capstone (6 credits) The capstone project will be the culminating project of the student graduate career in the program.  He or she will complete either a traditional academic thesis with an applied focus or a project resulting in a product or event with supporting documentation and a reflective written exercise.  Under the guidance of the academic director and a faculty advisor, each student will propose a project, conduct the research, and complete the project within the timeframe of one to two semesters.  The nature of expected duties and experiences as well as the work to be accomplished by the student will be determined according to program guidelines and the student's professional interests.  Activities, preparation, and evaluation criteria will be determined prior to approval.