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Environmental Studies

Available as a major or minor 

Environmental studies is an interdisciplinary, community-engaged program crossing the bounds of the humanities, natural sciences and social sciences.

As an environmental studies major, you’ll investigate pressing domestic and global environmental problems, gain insight into your relationship with nature, and develop the skills needed to create  a more sustainable and just future. In addition to exploring and studying Virginia’s forests, mountains and rivers, you’ll be engaged in the community and will learn how to make a difference and become an effective problem-solver.

A student works plants a plant in the campus garden while others look on under a brilliant blue sky.

Curriculum & Courses

ENSC-101 Environmental Science
ENSC-230 Critical Zone Science
ENSC-390 Water and Society

Students holding a banner

Student Experiences

students going through trashRoanoke College has several student-run clubs and organizations pertaining to Environmental Studies:

  • Garden Club
  • Beekeeping Club
  • Earthbound
  • Eco-house
  • Alpha Kappa Chi

Roanoke has semester-long, faculty-led programs all over the world called May Term. Students take classes with their professor, go on cultural excursions, experience language immersion and perform service projects. Our most recent trips for Environmental Studies include Mexico, Kenya and India, among others. Learn more.

Students with the masai mara in Kenya
Student with a camel in India
Students at a natural water pool with a Roanoke College banner
Students in front of a mural
Students in the mountains in India

What Makes Roanoke Different?

“Roanoke's environmental program was light years ahead of what other schools offered. The professors were wonderful. So much of my time was spent outdoors. It really opened up my mind for different ways of learning.”

Whitney Sorge ’07, Virginia State Park Ranger

Learn by Doing

bricks with writing on themWe have great relationships with many conservation-focused organizations in the valley, and we help students find internships that align with their interests. Recent examples include:

  • Clean Valley Council
  • The Appalachian Trail Conservancy
  • City of Roanoke Parks and Recreation
  • Community Garden
  • Carilion Sustainability
  • Friends Committee on National Legislation
  • Roanoke Regional Partnership

Careers & Outcomes

Joseph Simme sits with mountains behind himJosef Simme ’18 always knew he wanted to work in the environmental field. After graduation, his dedication paid off, and he took a job as an Environmental Compliance Review Specialist with the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Working with FEMA has fueled Simme’s passion for the environment. He has discovered a desire to help those struggling after the devastation of a natural disaster. He was recently chosen to be the lead for FEMA’s invasive species implementation project and is working toward better informing the public about the dangers of the spread of invasive species.

Mackay Pierce, an environmental studies major from Bristol, Tennessee, interned with the Advocacy Corps of the Friends Committee on National Legislation, a Quaker-based group. As a grassroots lobbyist, his primary role was facilitating meetings between community members and students with legislators to discuss climate change issues. Putting his passion for the environment to work, Pierce met with a variety of legislators, including the staff of both U.S. Senators from Virginia.

Pierce believes the future economy for the Appalachian coal communities will look very different from the past. "In my opinion, the biggest driving force will be a return to localization," Pierce said. "I think the future will highlight the natural resources most readily available: the mountains as a recreational asset."

“It is like studying computer science in 1995,” conservationist Scott Segerstrom ’02 says.

Faculty

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A professor and five students sit on the edge of a trailer they've filled with compostable material for a class project.Whether your goal is to be out in the field or to make a difference in government or the business world, faculty members will prepare you for your future. Through independent study and research opportunities, you’ll work alongside faculty and get firsthand experience. Our faculty members are experts on environmental justice, sustainability, water and soil quality, environmental policy, conservation science and more. Their community ties help students connect with local organizations and get them into the real world where they can learn how to make an impact long before graduating.

News

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#EnvironmentRC

  • All are welcome to attend RC Sustain meetings! We discuss ways to make our campus more sustainable. 

    Date:
    March 19, 2024
    Time:
    12 - 1 p.m.
    Location:

    Pickle Lounge (Colket Center)

    RC Sustainevent image
  • Are you a student involved in research? Are you interested in improving how you communicate about your research? This workshop is for you!

    Date:
    March 22, 2024
    Time:
    6 - 8 p.m.
    Location:

    Pickle Lounge

    Workshop: Communicating Your Research in a Nutshellevent image

Environmental studies is an interdisciplinary, community-engaged program crossing the bounds of the humanities, natural sciences and social sciences.

As an environmental studies major, you’ll investigate pressing domestic and global environmental problems, gain insight into your relationship with nature, and develop the skills needed to create  a more sustainable and just future. In addition to exploring and studying Virginia’s forests, mountains and rivers, you’ll be engaged in the community and will learn how to make a difference and become an effective problem-solver.

Your experience will be tailored to your interests and professional goals, whether that’s working in the field to conserve natural resources, helping to shape policy, or working with a community to enact change. We have multiple interdisciplinary tracks to pursue, including our newest one, environmental justice. We provide opportunities for students to participate in on and off-campus sustainability, community-engaged science, and environmental justice projects. Our connections with nonprofits, government agencies and businesses will set you up with internships and real-world learning opportunities. We also help you develop career-ready skills through a project-based senior capstone where students apply their knowledge towards addressing a real-world environmental issue with a community partner.

You can partner with faculty members to help conduct research and service learning projects both close to campus and across the globe.. You'll have the chance to study environmental issues in places such as the Pacific Northwest, Yucatan, or Kenya  with our faculty.

Through environmental studies, you'll gain skills in problem-solving, laboratory and scientific techniques, advocacy, data analysis, geographic information systems,  writing and communication, project management and more.