About the Major
If we are to leave the legacy of a healthy and livable planet to future generations, a lot of work needs to be done. The Environmental Studies program at Ramapo College is about preparing students to be leaders, educators and experts in this effort. Bolstered recently by our new partnership with the renowned Meadowlands Environmental Education Center and eagerly anticipating the opening of our new state-of-the-art Sustainability Education Center, as we enter our fourth decade we are more certain than ever that our graduates will have a profound and positive effect on the world we live in.
Created in 1974, Ramapo’s pioneer Environmental Studies major was forged in the spirit of the landmark National Environmental Policy Act to offer a systematic, interdisciplinary approach to education, integrating the natural and social sciences and the environmental design arts to thoroughly understand the profound impacts of human activity upon the environment and the importance of restoring and maintaining environmental quality. We seek to prepare our students to be leaders in building an environmentally, economically, and socially sustainable society, one that justly balances the needs of people today with those of future generations and of biodiversity. Our focus is simultaneously global and local, with an emphasis upon hands-on participation.
The major builds upon foundational coursework in environmental studies and the basic sciences, placed in historical, social, and policy contexts through our core program, and then focused on four key elements of a sustainable society: earth and resources, place and community, sustainable economics, and ecological practice. The choice of courses provides students the opportunity to tailor their education according to their interests, reflecting the diverse pathways that an Environmental Studies major might follow to an eventual career.
The Environmental Studies program invites active participation. Our students are placed into real world settings through hands-on project courses, Internships and such outstanding COOP Education opportunities as the Weiss Fellowship program based at the Audubon Ecology Center, cooperative education and post-graduate positions at our partner Meadowlands Environmental Education Center, and cooperative study and employment opportunities in on-campus sustainability projects.
The program makes ample use of our scenic location in the Ramapo Valley and Highlands region, with its wealth of parklands and open spaces, as well as our proximity to New York City and urban centers. We remain on the front line of some of the most important growth battles shaping our region, fertile opportunities for student learning.
Study Abroad plays a vital role in our program, as well. Domestic programs take students to the forests and national parks of the American West; our international programs are centered in the tropical rainforests of Costa Rica and Jamaica, and a semester-long program in South India has been inaugurated. These study abroad opportunities give our students a global experience and a multi-cultural perspective as they learn to bridge theory and real world application, the scientific and physical aspects of the natural world, and the human institutional and community settings that have transformed it.
Two challenging capstone courses further prepare students to assess environmental impact from natural science, social science, and policy perspectives, to work in groups, and to do advanced research and communicate clearly. The experiences developing skills in communication, critical thinking, interdisciplinary synthesis, and group cooperation allow our graduates considerable career flexibility.
Many graduates earn advanced degrees, the diversity of which illustrates the program’s breadth. Similarly, while most graduates choose to work in environmental careers, those careers vary broadly, reflecting the general importance of environment to all areas of human concern. An increasing number of our graduates have become educators. Many work in parks and open space preservation. Some work in small businesses concerned with solar construction or green practices. Some raise organic food. Our graduates go to law school and become environmental attorneys. Some become energy conservation experts for utilities, heads of recycling programs or businesses, and project managers, environmental specialists and impact assessors for engineering firms working on pollution mitigation or infrastructure projects. Our graduates also work for regulatory agencies, non-profit corporations, planning departments, environmental education centers, consulting firms, and corporations. Students are instilled with a sense of community responsibility and are provided with the skills for lifelong contributions as citizens of the planet.
The program offers the opportunity for close faculty-student relationships through advisement, independent study, small classes, and student organizations. A unique, cutting-edge, hands-on learning site, the Ramapo College Sustainable Education Center has been designed to demonstrate the components of a sustainable community, including solar, wind, and other renewable forms of energy, recycling and composting, and ecological agriculture. The faculty Institute for Environmental Studies and student groups such as the Environmental Alliance, provides many other opportunities for collaboration on such projects as conferences, the annual Earth Week celebration, and promoting the ecological management of the Ramapo campus.
Students have the choice to earn their BA in Environmental Studies through either the School of Theoretical and Applied Science (TAS) or the School of Social Science and Human Services (SSHS). Our students sometimes combine the major (or our minor program) with programs in Sociology, Social Work, Psychology, Anthropology, Business Administration, Communications, Journalism, Law and Society, and International Studies. Many of our students earn teacher certification while completing their Environmental Studies degree.