Environmental and Sustainability Studies

Interdisciplinary Minor


“The Environmental and Sustainability Studies minor was crucial not only in my understanding of environmental issues and responses to them, but in my ability to articulate my ideas on those issues in a dynamic social and academic community. My acceptance to a Ph.D. program at the University of Colorado Boulder was greatly dependent on skills learned and polished within the framework of the minor. The opportunities I had for interdisciplinary research, world travel and attending national conferences and participating in publications were wonderful, life-changing experiences that were only available to me through the close connections I made with faculty and peers in the program.”

— Garrett Boudinott ‘15
religious studies and geology double major

What do cricket frogs in the Francis Marion forest have to do with anthropogenic climate change, and what will be the impacts of climate change on Charleston and the Lowcountry? How do property rights affect economic policy, and how does economic policy impact environmental regulations? Does it matter how our food is grown, by whom, and with what inputs? These and other interrelated questions fall within the realm of environmental and sustainability studies — an interdisciplinary study of the human animal that enhances our understanding of how political, social, cultural and economic activities relate to the physical world, and in turn are impacted by the physical world.

At the College of Charleston, our Environmental and Sustainability Studies Program can help you make sense of important issues that confront the future of society, and that knowledge can give you an edge in the professional world or graduate school. By combining courses in the natural sciences (geology, physics, biology and chemistry) with those in the social sciences (anthropology, psychology, political science, sociology) and the humanities (religious studies, philosophy, women and gender studies, history, literature) — as well as studies in economics, art history and math — this program offers an appreciation for environmental issues on a local, national and international scale. The program also offers opportunities for hands-on research that are potentially unlimited. Projects our students have done include:

  • investigating the effects of coastal erosion on the wildlife habitat of nearby barrier islands.
  • undertaking energy audits of the College’s entire campus.
  • studying the ecological benefits of small-scale refinements in mass-transit systems.
  • undertaking ethnographic research with the Transition Town movement

”The Environmental and Sustainability Studies minor at the College brings together science, policy and philosophy into a comprehensive perspective on our social, political and environmental problems of today. As a student of math and sciences at a liberal arts college, I found the environmental studies minor to be an academically fulfilling and holistic step in my college career, because the coursework combined all disciplines to see the world as it actually is – interconnected.”
—  Cara Lauria '15
geology major

The committed faculty who teach our environmental and sustainability studies courses represent a cross section of expertise, spanning areas as diverse as ethnobotany, natural disasters, air pollution, cultural values about the environment, sustainable urban design, and the intersection of race, gender, class and environmental justice issues. And, in this program, internships are key. Recently, our students interned with:

  • the City of Charleston’s planning department (helping develop its 180-page sustainability plan).
  • an environmental engineering firm (learning the basic operations).
  • a local municipal water works (helping to assess water quality).
  • a local school garden project (helping with publicity and teaching elementary school children modules in the garden)

So, what is it that those cricket frogs have to do with climate change? Check out our environmental and sustainability studies program and find out.

Contact Information

Allison Welch
Program Director