We offer a design-oriented curriculum to equip you with the broad set of intellectual tools and learning experiences needed to address the unprecedented environmental challenges facing your generation: remediating and adapting to climate change while developing sustainable systems to produce food, fuel, shelter, and fiber.
While daunting, these challenges also present tremendous opportunities for you and your peers to creatively construct a world that is better than the one you inherited. The Environmental Studies Program seeks to create a learning environment that fosters an understanding of the causes and consequences of our environmental predicaments, as well as the creative problem solving skills to design a more sustainable relationship between humans and the rest of the natural world.
Students can major or minor in environmental studies. Majors will gain the knowledge, intellectual tools, and learning experiences to pursue an increasingly diverse set of career options. Majors often obtain employment immediately after graduating, but most eventually pursue advanced degrees in such fields as environmental science, public policy, architecture, business, law, sustainable agriculture, and urban planning.
Our faculty, facilities, and the unique learning experiences we provide have earned Oberlin a national reputation for excellence in environmental studies. The emerging field of ecological design provides a theme for our multidisciplinary program.
Ecological design draws on natural science, social science, the arts, and humanities. We consider how to remake the human presence in the world in ways that are both socially just and environmentally sustainable. Core courses build a solid foundation in these disciplines. Students then select from a broad range of intermediate and advanced environmental studies courses, including:
- Nature, Culture and Interpretation
- Systems Ecology
- Natural Resource Economics
Independent projects, internships, and senior honors projects further develop students’ ability to synthesize information and to apply their knowledge and skills to better understand topics of their choosing. We also offer study away programs and maintain an active speaker series that brings in prominent thinkers and researchers on the environment.
On campus, our program is based in the internationally acclaimed Adam Joseph Lewis Center for Environmental Studies. Dedicated in 2000, the New York Times described this state-of-the-art facility as “the most remarkable” of a new generation of environmentally responsible buildings. Together with the newly renovated Environmental Science Laboratory next door, the building and landscape provide an exceptional educational environment.
The Lewis Center exemplifies our teaching philosophy, which recognizes that real world experience and practical engagement complement traditional coursework. We encourage students to use their creativity and initiative to analyze and address local, regional, and global challenges. In many cases, work begun in the context of classes and independent studies has developed into fellowships, organizations, policy change, and even careers.
Beyond the Lewis Center, the entire college facility and the Oberlin community function as laboratories for environmental problem solving. In fall 2006, for example, Oberlin College became the first of its peer institutions to sign the American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment. In 2009 and 2010, the Sierra Club’s magazine ranked Oberlin as one of the top 100 "cool schools" in America for the environmental awareness of its students, faculty, and staff.