Environmental Studies & Sustainability

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General Education Courses

Click here for a complete list of curriculum requirements.

Curriculum and Concentrations

To earn the B.A. degree with a major in Liberal Studies, students must develop and complete a coherent curriculum with a concentration of at least 30 semester hours (15 of which may be transfer credit). The chosen concentration is designed to ensure depth of learning beyond the introductory level.

    The concentrations are:

  1. Psychology and Human Development
  2. Arts, Writing, and Literature
  3. Global Studies, History, and Culture
  4. Environmental Studies and Sustainability
  5. Education
  6. Self-Designed

The Six Concentrations: Conceptual Framework and Core Knowledge

Union Institute and University offers the degree of Bachelor of Arts in Liberal Studies. All students will earn a bachelor’s degree in Liberal Studies. Students choose a concentration within that major. Each concentration addresses five dimensions of learning appropriate to the concentration: Methods, Theories and Concepts, History/Context, Controversies and Application. These dimensions are referenced in each of the concentration descriptions below, some directly and some indirectly. For further information, please consult a core faculty member in the concentration.


Demonstrate understanding of the social context and/or historical background of the concentration as it has emerged and is practiced.

Theories and Concepts:

Demonstrate comprehension of theories, concepts, questions, and/or viewpoints relevant to the concentration.


Understand and apply basic methods of inquiry relevant to the concentration.


Recognize contemporary and historical controversies relevant to the concentration.


Demonstrate an ability to apply principles and methods of the concentration in a real world setting.

Students are encouraged to think not only about their concentration but also about all their independent studies and seminars in terms of these dimensions. Even if the study is not part of one’s concentration, it will still address theories, concepts, methods, etc. in the topic area. Although all five outcomes will probably not be addressed each term in each study or seminar, a study or seminar ordinarily will address two or three of these outcomes, depending on how the topic and its study are structured.

Environmental Studies and Sustainability

Conceptual Framework:

Earth, both in itself and within the larger context of the universe, can be seen as a set of complex unfolding processes and relationships in which we are embedded and on which we are dependent. In light of our enormous technical abilities and burgeoning population, it is especially important now to assess humanity’s impact on and responsibility for the state of the planet. The environmental studies and sustainability concentration allows students to explore environmental issues from an interdisciplinary perspective, understanding that complex issues require a complex approach. The interdisciplinary aspect, for example, recognizes sustainability not just in terms of the planet but also in economic and social terms. Students regularly include experiential components in their studies, which ground the theory and concepts they explore, allowing their insight to develop through direct contact with and observation of the natural world and interactions between humans and nature. Over the course of their studies, students will place what they have learned into a framework that is multifaceted, complex, and always supported by their own experience.

Core knowledge:

The environmental studies concentration is inherently interdisciplinary. It draws on the investigation of natural science through studies in the history, methods, theories, and current controversies in ecology, including knowledge of the ways that statistics and mathematics are used to describe natural processes. Also, students explore the relationship of humans to the natural world from historical and ethical perspectives, and investigate environmental issues and the implications of human actions using methods from the sciences and/or social sciences. Further, sustainability is conceptualized as going beyond sustainable environmental practices to include economic sustainability and social justice. Beyond this foundation, students may look at the natural world and environmental concerns through the lenses of literature, philosophy, applications such as technology and management, religion and spirituality, art, public policy, and the social sciences. Each of these perspectives suggests a different type of experiential component to enrich the study.

Representative Outcomes:

  • Articulate how the natural and social sciences support an understanding of the earth and its inhabitants as in a constantly dynamic, responsive process.
  • Analyze environmental issues involving individuals, human and natural communities, and institutions from different disciplinary perspectives.
  • Evaluate ethical stances in relation to general or particular environmental concerns and discuss the reasons and justifications that support particular values.
  • Demonstrate an understanding of how nature is studied and understood by people in different academic fields and cultures.

Degree: B.A. - Liberal Studies
Credits: 120
Transfer up to 78 credits
Min Time: 42 credits (3.5 terms)
Start Dates: Jan, May, Sept

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