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Environmental Studies (B.A.)

Website: School of Social Science and Human Services



About the Major

Founded in 1974, Ramapo’s Environmental Studies Program pioneered this new field, preparing over our 41 year history some 2,500 graduates to work for a sustainable future.  Our students emerge as leaders and sound decision makers.  As cross-disciplinary thinkers, able to draw upon the wisdom of many fields, they understand where we need to go and how to get there.

Following the distinctive pillars of Ramapo’s education mission, we promote an integrative interdisciplinary mode of learning, simultaneously local and global in focus, experiential in form, protecting and promoting social and ecological diversity.

Given our distinctive Social Ecological approach, our program–was a forerunner in recognizing sustainability as the central focus of study given the inseparability of environment and society (including the economy).  Transcending siloed and narrow disciplinary thinking, we emphasize the interplay of ecology and society throughout a truly integrative and diverse curriculum.

After some foundational science courses, students take a core program. After our gateway course World Sustainability, they study Public Policy, Environmental History, Energy and Society, and Natural History and Field Ecology.

Students then individualize their advanced study by selecting their own path through a wide array of upper level electives. Possible pathways include:

  • Place-based Community,
  • Education for Sustainability,
  • Policy, Ethics and Law,
  • Natural Resources and Parks,
  • Social Ecology,
  • Permaculture: Food, Water and Energy, and
  • Experiential Learning.

A capstone topical seminar hones academic research skills. In a second experiential capstone experience an Environmental Assessment is undertaken of a real contemporary regional issue of significance.  Forming their own consulting firm,  students learn to collaborate, to organize and manage, to do quality field research and to deliver professional quality work to actual clients.  This program generates learning that will translate directly to graduates’ future experiences.

We employ experiential learning throughout the curriculum to provide hands on, real world experiences. All of our students engage in field learning through internship opportunities, Cooperative learning experiences, Independent Study and/or approved study abroad.  Ramapo manages the highly regarded Meadowlands Environmental Education Center as well as several other regional programs and has a longstanding role in the Weiss Ecology Center.  We encourage our students to participate in study abroad programs, offering the option to spend a life changing semester working with our own faculty in South India, as well as shorter programs in scores of other global study options. Many students do short-term work in a Macaw Sanctuary in Costa Rica.

Our faculty and students actively participate in the continuing work on global sustainability focused around the United Nations. Our proximity to the UN and New York allows us to serve as a global crossroads of the best critical thinking in our areas of interest. Given the importance of local sustainable communities of place, we use as our local laboratory the beautiful Ramapo Mountain/Highlands region of New Jersey and New York, its diverse communities and its ecological and historical wealth.  We partner with the best local and regional organizations, including our neighbors, the Ramapough-Lenape nation, to promote the restoration and preservation of the region.

Faculty bring a blend of academic accomplishment and real world professional experience to our program. They engage in research locally but also work across the globe.

Our faculty are active environmental stewards, working for sustainable innovation.   And we offer seminars, workshops, lectures, MOOCS and conferences on a regular basis, bringing diverse models of sustainable practice and innovative thinkers from around the world to enrich our learning environment.  The result is a dynamic educational context, matching local and global. Few have been doing this longer than we have, and few do it as well.

Our success is reflected in a student body active on campus and in the community, already engaged as change agents and innovators. A growing number of student clubs address issues of sustainability, environmental activism, beekeeping and animal rights and diet. Many of our students participate in the Sustainable Living Facility project. Our graduates are prepared to move fluidly into the work world, often forging their own opportunities. Many of our students elect to do advanced study at the master’s level and some at the doctoral level.  Doctoral theses by our graduates include such topics as the  impact of wind energy on native peoples and the potential for environmental education to counter nature deficit. Our graduates have pioneered in such fields as hospital sustainability, solar design, environmental impact assessment, environmental and sustainability education, sustainable building, sustainability education, ecological landscaping, environmental law, local food, climate and energy policy, environmental engineering, sustainable land use planning and design, and local business development.

Our current programs include the BA in Environmental Studies and a minor in Environmental Studies. Our Masters in Sustainability Studies is preparing to graduate its third class.  For more information, contact Convener Michael R. Edelstein, Ph.D.  Stop by to chat with Mike or other faculty, attend our many events, sit in on classes or engage our very active students through the growing number of environment and sustainability clubs on campus.

Outcomes for the Major

Goal 1: Students will be able to recognize and address both global and local issues of sustainability, based on an interdisciplinary understanding of environmental affairs.

Outcome 1:  Student work will reflect a clear grasp of the connected nature of global and local issues in community sustainability.

Goal 2: Students will demonstrate an integrative interdisciplinary perspective capable of synthesizing across the natural sciences, social sciences and economic perspectives.

Outcome 1: Student work will clearly reflect an understanding of Sustainability as a transdisciplinary concept that integrates the Environment, Ethics, and Economy.

Goal 3: Students will demonstrate the ability to integrate and synthesize interdisciplinary research while at the same time showing competence in written and spoken presentation.

Outcome 1: Students will pass a capstone experience on Environmental Assessment that incorporates a field research project.

Outcome 2: As a writing intensive course, incorporating a series of iterated writing assignments and multiple opportunities for formal oral presentation.

Goal 4: Students will develop collaborative skills, through community building, cooperative teamwork, and interaction with stakeholder processes that can lead to strategic involvement in real world sustainability decision making.

Outcome 1: Students will experience a capstone experience in Environmental Assessment where they conduct cooperative field research and prepare a collaborative project outcome, while engaging in reflective reading, writing and analysis based on collaborative team work.

Outcome 2: Students will develop collaborative decision making skills in strategic involvement in real world issues and interact extensively with stakeholder processes grounded in real world policy setting and decision making.

Requirements of the Major
  1. Transfer students who have 48 or more credits accepted at the time of transfer are waived from the courses marked with a (W) below. Waivers do not apply to Major Requirements.
  2. Double counting between General Education, School Core, and Major may be possible. Check with your advisor to see if any apply.
  3. Writing Intensive Requirement (five courses):  two writing intensive courses in the general education curriculum are required: Critical Reading and Writing and Studies in the Arts and Humanities the other three courses are taken in the major.
  4. Not all courses are offered each semester.  Please check the current Schedule of Classes for semester course offerings.
  5. The Career Pathways Program requirements must be completed prior to graduation.  Visit the Cahill Career Center.

Note: A 2.0 GPA in the major is required for graduation.

Requirements of the Minor

  1. At least 1/2 of the courses fulfilling a minor must be distinct from the student’s major. That is, three of the five courses required for a minor cannot be used towards fulfillment of major requirements. A school core does not need to be completed for a minor. Minors are open to students regardless of school affiliation.