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Environmental Studies and Sustainability

Major Requirements

Satisfying the requirements for the Environmental Studies and Sustainability Major includes completing a minimum of 44 credits in the major.

The curriculum is designed to allow students to pursue their preferred focus within environmental studies while providing a common foundation of knowledge and experience for all students. All students are encouraged to pursue a second major or minors in related disciplines. 

ESS Degree Requirements

Required Core Curriculum (20 credits)

  • ESS 1050 Environmental Studies Gateway (required introductory course) – 4 credits
  • BIO 2009/3009 Environmental Science - 4 credits
  • PHL 2070 Environmental Ethics - 4credits
  • ESS 4850 Community Internship – 4 credits
  • ESS 4820 Senior Seminar/Project I – 2 credits
  • ESS 4920 Senior Seminar/Project II – 2 credits

Beyond the required core courses, students select courses from within the following three areas: liberal arts; science and engineering; and business. Environmental studies and sustainability-approved courses can be taken from choices in biology, business, economics, electrical engineering, health science, history, philosophy, political science, sociology, religious and theological studies, and many other departments.

Science and Society Track

(16 credits from this list)

This track is for students who have interests in the pure and/or applied sciences, including biology, chemistry, health science or engineering. Students will explore the intersection between science and society, recognize the interdependencies between human society and the natural world, explore how environmental problems are inherently interdisciplinary and the role science plays in helping solve problems. Field work and community-based service is emphasized. Eligible courses include:

  • BIO 2010 Ecology (4cr.) (S)
  • BIO 3064 Marine Biology (4cr.) (S)
  • BIO 3071 Conservation and Restoration Biology (4cr.) (S)
  • EEN 1177 Renewable Energy and the Environment (4cr.) (S)
  • EEN 3270 Energy, Generation, Conservation, and Technology (4cr.) (S)
  • ESS 3450 Sustainable Energy (4cr.) (SS)
  • HIS 3380 Science, Technology, and Society (4cr.) (H)
  • HSC 3103 Global Public Health (4cr.) (SS)
  • PHL 2110 Environmental Philosophy (4cr.) (H)
  • PHL 3050 Philosophy of Science (4cr.) (H)

Sustainable Business and Policy

(16 credits from this list)

his track will examine what constitutes effective and responsible environmental policy in the private and public sectors. The track will focus on both domestic and global environmental issues with an emphasis on both federal and local environmental policy. Students will gain awareness of basic environmental science, energy management, social science and business concepts and issues related to sustainable development. Students will recognize the challenges of sustainable development as well as the opportunities and limits for the private sector in meeting these challenges. Students will examine, analyze, and actively participate in exploring how social, political and economic values influence environmental policy, and vice versa, how federal and local policies (including regulations, taxes, laws, and incentives), influence values. Eligible courses include:

  • BUS 1100 Introduction to Business (required) (4cr.) (P)
  • COM 3742 Communication and Nonprofit Organizing (4cr.) (SS)
  • ECO 3305 Ecological Economics (4cr.) (SS)
  • ESS 3350 Sustainable Business Practices (required) (4cr.) (P)
  • ESS 3450 Sustainable Energy (4cr.) (SS)
  • ESS 3550 Environmental Policy (4cr.) (SS)
  • HIS 3335 World Environmental History (4cr.) (H)
  • HIS 3525 Environmental History of North America (4cr.) (H)
  • HSC 3103 Global Public Health (4cr.) (SS)
  • POL 2121 Public Administration and Public Policy (4cr.) (SS)

Social Sustainability

(16 credits from this list)

This track exposes students to the ethical, historical and political dimensions of the interaction between nature and society, not only to understand how environmental problems often arise from power relations and unequal control over natural resources, but also to appreciate why we have a duty to address these problems and to identify strategies for responsible action that can lead to social change. Because solutions to these problems will require innovative thinking, courses in this area also call upon students to develop their environmental imaginations, that is, the ability to envision an ecologically healthier world than the one we currently inhabit. Eligible courses include:

  • ENG 3745 Environmental Film (4cr.) (H)
  • ENG 4120 The New England Shore (4cr.) (H)
  • HIS 3320 The American City (4cr.) (H)
  • HIS 3335 World Environmental History (4cr.) (H)
  • HIS 3525 Environmental History of North America (4cr.) (H)
  • PHL 2110 Environmental Philosophy (4cr.) (H)
  • PHL 2120 Ethics, Ecology, and the Beauty of Nature (4cr.) (H)
  • RTS 3030 Humans, Earth, and the Sacred: Religion and the Environment (4cr.) (H)
  • SOC 3600 Sociology of Health (4cr.) (SS)
  • SOJ 1000 Introduction to Social Justice (4cr.) (SS)
  • WGS 3000 Environmental Justice, Gender, and Animal Rights (4cr.) (SS)
  • WRT 2020 Writing for Social Change (4cr.) (H) 

Open Electives (8 credits)
To give students greater flexibility in their thinking, eight credits of the major are available for use in deepening the student’s understanding of a particular dimension of sustainability or broadening their thinking.  Any course eligible for the ESS major fulfills this requirement.  

In addition to the core courses, students must take at least four credits in the humanities, sciences, and social sciences or professional programs. These courses are marked with an H, S and SS or P, respectively, above.

Double Major and Minor Option
In order to give students’ educational experience greater depth, all students in the ESS program are also strongly encouraged to pursue a double major or minor in another degree program at Merrimack College. This avoids the long-noted trap found in many undergraduate environmental studies programs of losing balance and providing too much breadth at the expense of depth.  

Typically, students choose a second program related to the ESS major that reflects their specific focus, for example, biology, business, chemistry, communications, economics, education, social justice, etc.