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 Educational 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 in order to thoroughly understand the profound impacts of human activity upon the environment and explore means for restoring and maintaining environmental quality and civic engagement. 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 that promotes environmental justice and biodiversity. Our focus is simultaneously global and local, with an emphasis upon hands-on participation.
The major builds upon foundational coursework in environmental and basic science, placed in historical, social, and policy context by our new gateway course in Social Ecology called World Sustainability and other core courses: Environmental History, Public Policy, Natural History, Energy and Society and Geographic Information Systems. Next we focus on four key elements of a sustainable society: earth and resources, place and community, sustainable economics and ethics, and ecological practice (in sustainability planning, green building, renewable resources or sustainable agriculture). 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.
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 allow students to develop skills in communication, critical thinking, interdisciplinary synthesis, and group cooperation allowing our graduates considerable career flexibility.
The Environmental Studies program invites active participation. Our students are placed into real world settings through hands-on project courses, Internships and such outstanding Co-Op Education opportunities as the Weiss Fellowship program based at the Audubon Ecology Center, and our undergraduate and post-baccalaureate teaching opportunities at our partner Meadowlands Environmental Education Center, cooperative study and employment opportunities in on-campus sustainability efforts and many diverse off-campus Co-Op opportunities.
This program makes ample use of our scenic location in the Ramapo Valley and majestic 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 students learning. Study Abroad plays a vital role in our program, we well. Domestic programs take students to the forests and national parks of the American West. The core of our global program is our unique semester abroad program at Fireflies Ashram in Bangalore, India. These study abroad opportunities give our students a global experience and a multicultural 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. For students unable to travel, we offer excellent regional field study opportunities as well.
Our program has been long recognized as an innovator. We gave birth to the field of Social Ecology and offered pioneering programs on solar energy. We were doing sustainability education before the word was coined and long ago organized our program around the concept. We continue to be one of the few undergraduate programs using Environmental Assessment as a central methodology for integrating the field. We anchored Ramapo's early effort to promote Ecological Literacy campus-wide. And we gave birth to the New Jersey Higher Education Partnership for Sustainability. We are a member of the Hudson River Environmental Consortium and other emerging partnerships. We actively engage in public outreach and education. We continue to define and lead the field.
Our program focuses on community education and service. For example, the 2007 two-day event Green Meets Green celebrated the fact that the era of going green has finally arrived. As part of the event, a one-day conference "A Climate for Change" brought together leading thinkers and regional actors to discuss how to quickly bring about the transformation to a sustainable society in order to address the Climate Crisis. A two-day expo showcased the best green innovations and services for the regional public. The event began with Ramapo President Peter Mercer's signing of the college President's Climate Challenge, witnessed by student activists who had gathered 800 student signatures on a petition calling for the action. Characteristically, the event was a full collaboration between our faculty and our students, with students serving as central organizers and managers of the event and sharing the satisfaction of its success.
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 provide many other opportunities for collaboration on such projects as conferences, the annual Earth Week/Month celebration, and the movement to address Greenhouse Gas emissions, and promoting the sustainable management of the Ramapo campus.
The B.A. in Environmental Studies is offered through the School of Social Science and Human Services (SSHS). Our students sometimes combine the major (or our minor program) with such programs as 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.