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Environmental Studies and Sustainability

FAQs about ESS

What is unique about Merrimack’s Environmental Studies and Sustainability (ESS) Program?
Our curriculum is truly interdisciplinary weaving together courses in environmental science, social science, humanities, business and economics.  Students will develop competencies in all areas of sustainability.  The degree program is built around four interlinking components:  Curriculum, Campus Sustainability, Community Engagement and Global Context.  By themselves, each of these components is significant.  Integrated together, they provide a powerful synergy and will provide ESS Program students with a rich undergraduate experience with opportunities to build competencies in sustainability while taking advantage of new opportunities for community engagement, internships, independent research, learning outside of the classroom, service, international study and employment. The ESS Program curriculum meets the sustainability curriculum framework outlined by the Education for Sustainability developed by Second Nature, namely: scale; human connections to the physical and natural world; ethics and values; how natural systems function; technological and economic relationships to sustainability; motivating environmentally sustainable behavior; and effective pedagogical strategies for integrating sustainability.

The ESS Program at Merrimack combines the theoretical with the practical and encourages hands-on and real-world experience in the field at every turn.  Students need to experience and engage first-hand, the applied aspects of Environmental Studies and Sustainability.  All students are required to participate in a Community Internship in the junior year and fully participate in a senior capstone Project that works on sustainability projects with teams of students, faculty and community partners. 

How many credits in the ESS Major?
The major is a total of 40 credits.  This means that there is flexibility in the degree program itself in that students can double-major in a complementary discipline or add it as a Minor.  In this way, the ESS Program represents ‘value-added’ to our existing range of degree offerings and prepares students for opportunities in the emerging green economy.  Furthermore, the major has merits both on its own as a rigorous and important field of study.  As a stand alone major, the ESS Program represents a pathway to immediate careers in the public, private and not-for-profit sectors as well as graduate study in such areas as sustainability, law, journalism, urban planning, environmental policy, environmental management, environmental regulation, community relations, public health, economics and/or research.

What is the value of tracking in the ESS Major? 
Tracking provides ESS students with the opportunity to get more curricular depth in a specific focus of study within the breadth of ESS course offerings.  Tracking also provides a stronger linkage between the undergraduate curriculum and potential career and post-baccalaureate fields of study.  Our four tracks are: Environmental Science, Environmental Policy, Environmental Justice and Environmental Business.  All tracks combine a rigorous and diverse set of courses from the social sciences, humanities, business, and the natural sciences to help students develop conceptual and problem solving skills to address global issues that are by nature complex and interdisciplinary.

What kind of jobs do Environmental Studies and Sustainability (ESS) graduates get after they graduate?
Our Program provides an excellent academic foundation that prepares students well to accept the challenges and opportunities of the dynamic and rapidly evolving field of environmental studies and sustainability.  The ESS major prepares students for post-baccalaureate environmental careers and/or graduate study.  The ESS degree will prepare students for careers that demand broadly trained problem solvers that are well versed in science, economics and policy.  Merrimack’s ESS Program graduates will have the competencies to facilitate communications and collaborations among formally trained scientists, business leaders and policy makers and thus be well prepared for a host of career paths.  To enhance both their employ-ability and preparation for graduate study, students in Merrimack’s ESS Program will be introduced to numerous career options through courses like Gateway to Environmental Studies and the required Community Internship.

Review of national organizations such as the Environmental Career Opportunities, the  Green Careers Journal and regional organizations such as the Environmental Business Council of New England reveal a wide range of positions available to graduates.   The emerging green economy is complex and involves multiple careers across a broad spectrum of areas in the private and public sectors.  Career opportunities have emerged in alternative energy, green information technology, green buildings, green urban design, carbon reductions, waste conversion, recycling and reuse, sustainable agriculture, environmental management, environmental consulting, planning, law and compliance, renewable energy, energy efficiency, risk management, public relations, activism, community organizing, sales and marketing, environmental education, green procurement, social entrepreneurship and environmental health.  There is also a wide range of graduate programs that Merrimack ESSP students would be prepared to attend across this same broad spectrum.

Are there any active Environmentally or Sustainability-related Clubs or Groups on Campus?
Yes.  We have an active ‘Green Team’ that coordinates a large portion of the campus recycling program as well as sponsoring social events, field trips and other student-based activities.  Sustainable Merrimack is also active on campus and the coordinating group for all campus sustainability activities.  The Initiative sponsors seminars, workshops and an end of the semester ‘Sweeps Week’ Program.  All ESS majors are eligible and encouraged to join and participate.

Do I have to choose a Minor or a second Major?
No, you have maximum flexibility in forming your ESS degree, but students in the ESS Program are strongly encouraged and advised to at least Minor in another degree program at Merrimack or double major.  This avoids the trap found in many undergraduate environmental studies programs of losing balance and providing too much breadth at the expense of depth.

Is there guidance for students interested in career planning?
Yes. The Director of the ESS Program can help you in exploring career options and you can also work with Merrimack’s Career Services.

How do I get an Environmental Studies and Sustainability Advisor?
Incoming students are initially assigned to the Program Director to act as their advisor.  Depending on the student’s area of interest, an additional advisor may be assigned if the study is interested in pursuing a Minor or another Major.  We encourage students to get to know all the faculty teaching in the Program to explore their interests to the fullest.

Can I participate in a Study Abroad Program and still meet all my Environmental Studies and Sustainability Major requirements?
Absolutely yes.  We encourage students to plan to spend a semester abroad or at least take coursework abroad.  However, it is important to plan for these trips so you should discuss your options with your advisor if you are thinking about this option.

What is the Community Internship?
The Community Internship is a required internship for all ESS students and we have internship guidelines that outline how this is done.  We require all students to do an internship, particularly in the junior year.  Some 100 hours of experience are expected.  The Internship is an exciting opportunity for students and it should be an area of student interest and will provide students with real-world experience in that field.  The ESS Program Director acts as the Internship Coordinator and can help you with the process.  Students may even be paid for their internship experience.

Does the Program have an Internship Coordinator?
Yes.  The ESS Program Director acts as the Program’s student internship coordinator and he will assist students in preparing for internships.  The ESS Program web page also has a page dedicated to internships with numerous links to opportunities in the Boston area and throughout the U.S. and abroad.

Who should I contact to get more information about the Environmental Studies and Sustainability Program at Merrimack?
You should feel free to contact the Program Director or the Administrative Assistant.  We would be happy to discuss options with you and give you more information about our Degree Program.

I think I would like to participate in a faculty-based research project with a Merrimack Faculty, what do I do?
ESS Majors have the opportunity to work with faculty on the faculty member’s individual and/or collaborative research projects.  Students interested in this option should work with the ESS Program Director to prepare for this option.  Faculty across a wide range of Departments work with Merrimack students on their research, typically juniors and seniors.  Many students also choose to take a semester of Directed Study with a faculty member.

What sequence of courses does the typical Environmental Studies and Sustainability Major take?
The ESS Major has a set of core courses consisting of:  ESS 1050 – Environmental Studies Gateway; PHL 2070 Environmental Ethics, ESS 4850 Community Internship; and ESS 4820 and ESS 4920 a 2-semester Senior Sustainability Project course.  Students also take a minimum of 12 credits of Business/Economics courses, 8 credits of ESS approved Science and Engineering courses and 8 credits of ESS approved Liberal Arts courses.  Students also have the option of supplementing their environmental/sustainability focused course load by taking appropriate Liberal Studies Program courses that all Merrimack students take.  We also strongly advise students to pursue a Minor or even second Major to provide additional depth of knowledge that will give you a solid foundation for whatever career path you choose.


More Info

Linda Tankersley
Admin. Assistant
Cushing 107



Bryan Bannon

Director, Environmental Studies and Sustainability and Associate Professor of Philosophy