Collateral Major in Environmental Studies

Professor Harlo Hadow instructs students in the field.

Professor Harlo Hadow instructs
students in the field.

Water Study

Students exploring environmental studies at Coe have a wealth of special opportunities as the curriculum is robust, unique and diverse. Recognizing that environmental studies requires a blending of critical thinking skills and content instruction from many different areas of the college, faculty from at least six separate departments all teach in the major. This interdisciplinary approach equips students to evaluate informed solutions to the complex, technical ecological problems facing policy makers.

All majors take the following core courses:

  • BIO-105 Introduction to Environmental Studies
  • BIO-155, -150 Organismal and Ecological Biology and Laboratory
  • ECO-205 Principles of Macroeconomics
  • ECO-275 Principles of Environmental Economics
  • One of the following:
    BUS-299 Environmental Law and Policy
    PHL-205 Environmental Ethics
  • One class in statistics
  • ENV-5XX Environmental Studies Seminar

Working with the director of the program, students then take an additional four courses with a substantial focus on environmental content and relevant to a student’s particular course of study. Classes will be from natural and social sciences, as well the humanities.

In addition, an important component of the major is a student reflective portfolio, reviewed by the Director of Environmental Studies and other supervising faculty as appropriate. A student typically begins the portfolio during BIO-105 Introduction to Environmental Studies. This portfolio helps a student draw connections within the disparate learning he has encountered while working in an interdisciplinary major.

Many students completing the Environmental Studies program will take a course at the Coe College Wilderness Field Station, a unique summer program of biological field study in the Superior National Forest in Northern Minnesota. Making use of a rustic, off grid research facility owned and operated by the college on the border of the famed Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, students have an opportunity to better understand, evaluate and envision changing how humans relate to the natural world.  The Field Station offers college students from several participating institutions a holistic, full immersion experience of educational adventure. All classes are small and personal, and integrate lectures and laboratory investigation with frequent backcountry canoe travel. Celebrating its 50th Anniversary, the Coe College Wilderness Field Station is the learning adventure of a lifetime. More information is available at

Off-campus study is not limited to the Field Station, as many professors in the major offer May Term courses designed to explore topics through hands-on learning. Recent examples of such course include:

  • Business Sustainability and the Environment: Examining the increasing attention that business is giving to issues of sustainability, the class traveled to Colorado (May 2008) and California (May 2010) to work with such recognized corporate leaders as Patagonia, Cliff Bar, New Belgium Brewery, and Aspen Ski Company.
  • Economics of Renewable Energies: Taught in May 2010 and 2012. Features travel throughout the Midwest to visit with leaders in the renewable energy field.
  • South Africa: May 2012. This study abroad experience looks at the diverse ecosystems and human cultures in southern Africa within a context of the challenges posed by the HIV/AIDS pandemic and climate change. Students examine how environments support diverse ecosystems that are threatened by climate change and how human communities are stressed by both climate change and HIV/AIDS.
A student takes a break as he overlooks the Boundary Waters Canoe Area.
A student takes a break as he overlooks the Boundary Waters Canoe Area.