Environmental and Sustainability Studies


Environmental and Sustainability Studies (ESS) is a multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary concentration that offers students the opportunity to explore and critically examine issues related to the environments we share with other humans and with other species. Students will have the opportunity to consider the scientific, social, cultural, cognitive, intellectual, and spiritual dimensions of human ecological relationships to the natural world and how these relationships affect the well-being of human, non-human, and shared communities alike.  In addition, students develop the tools to form, evaluate, and act upon environmental questions at the local, national, and global levels.    


The mission of the ESS program is to bring together faculty and students to explore human-environment relationships.  Environmental degradation produced by human activity poses an existential threat to humans and other-than-humans. Communities around the world are creating alternative social, political, economic, and ethical structures and worldviews to transition to a just and sustainable future.  The Environmental and Sustainability Studies Program prepares students to become part of this transformation.

Students who choose a concentration in Environmental and Sustainability Studies will:

1. Understand the critical urgency of threats to our ecological communities and systems,

2. Deepen their understanding of the connections between individual and community well-being and the integrity of the places we inhabit,

3. Deconstruct systems of privilege and power to examine how they threaten natural systems and environments,

4. Explore the rich variety of existing practices and perspectives that represent sustainable alternatives to dominant socio-economic structures,

5. Focus on the interconnected socio-cultural, economic, political, and ethical systems that lead to environmental degradation and/or environmental sustainability,

6. Explore sustainable alternatives to human ecology and communities,

7. Reflect on the meaning of being human in a more-than-human world, and

8. Engage in community stewardship projects and/or creative expression that combines environmental theory and practice.

Students are required to take a total of five courses.  At least one course must be at the 200 level and at least one course must be at the 300 or 400 level.  Students may take a maximum of two courses from any one academic department.

Every student will take at least one course that incorporates an action or creative component. Criteria for meeting the action or creative component include:

- Design alternatives
- Engage in community service and environmental action (i.e.:  policy brief, internship, volunteer, service learning)
- Produce creative work (i.e.:  writing, visual or musical piece, performance, PR, video/podcast)

Students are encouraged to broaden their environmental understanding by:

- Fulfilling their NSP LASC requirements with courses listed in the Environmental Science major, or
- Taking CH-106 or BI-117, or 
- Taking any of these courses as electives.

Environmental and Sustainability Studies is an interdisciplinary program drawing from the faculty of all departments at Worcester State University. Any students with questions should contact the Office of Academic Affairs at 508-929-8938.

Elective Courses

EN-230 Environmental Themes in Literature

This class explores environmental issues as presented in poetry, essays and novels, including such writers as Thoreau, Hemingway and Ann Tyler.

Every 2-3 years. 3 Credits

GE-240 Energy Conservation

Concepts, technologies and policies for energy conservation. Inefficiencies of current systems; technical and social changes for energy efficiency.

Every year. 3 Credits

GE-258 Global Environmental Change

Prerequisites: GE-102 or GL/GE-102 or GS-101 or GL-150 or EV-150 or UR-101 or CH-106

An introduction to the science, political economy and ethics of global environmental change.

3 Credits

GE-285 Sustainable Communities

LASC Categories: HBS, USW

Prerequisites: GE-102 or GL/GE-102 or GL-150 or EC-110 or EC-120.

Exploration of changes in U.S. and global economic landscape, 1970 to present. Approaches to sustainable economic development.

Every 2-3 years. 3 Credits

GE-307 American Public Lands: Environmental Issues

Prerequisites: GE-258 or permission of instructor.

Exploration of the environmental management issues on U.S. public lands such as national parks, national forests BLM lands.

Every year. 3 Credits

GE-308 Environment and Development

Prerequisites: GE-258

The global ecology of rich and poor environmental implications of poverty, economic development, mass consumption, globalization and demographic change.

3 Credits

GE-312 Sustainable Food Systems

Prerequisites: GE-102 or a 200 level GE, GS, SO or UR course.

Overview of the structure, evolution, costs and benefits of the global food system. Exploration of local and global alternatives.

3 Credits

GE-341 Fundamentals of Renewable Energy

Prerequisites: GE-130 or GE-240

Analysis of renewable energy concepts, policy and politics. Technologies and methods for renewable energy capture, storage and distribution.

Every year. 3 Credits

GE-342 Sustainable Housing And Techniques

Prerequisites: GE-130 or GE-240

Principles of green design with an emphasis on building construction. Material and energy flows, choice of materials, designing for sustainability.

Every year. 3 Credits

HE-390 Environmental Health

Prerequisites: HE-100 or HC-201

Examination of the issues affecting the environment and their impact on our health.

Fall and Spring and every year. 3 Credits

SO-403 Environmental Sociology

Prerequisites: 9 credits from the department Sociology.

This course explores the relationship between environment and society through a focus on political ecology, sociological dimensions of environmental crisis and dynamics of social change.

Other or on demand and other or on demand. 3 Credits

UR-360 Environmental Systems and Public Policy

Prerequisites: UR-101

Examination of urban ecosystems, focusing on land uses designed to effectively utilize water, open space, and other natural resources.

Other or on demand. 3 Credits

UR-361 Public Policy and Environmental Issues

Prerequisites: UR-101

Investigation of the factors that determine the formation of public policy on the environment with consideration of the roles played by state and federal regulatory agencies.

Other or on demand. 3 Credits