Student Learning Goals

  • Competence beyond the major-track introductory level in interpreting environmental information
  • Develop a deeper understanding of the complex connections between environmental issues and social or political issues
  • Develop the analytical and critical capacities necessary to formulate compelling arguments about environmental issues
  • Engage both scholars and the lay public in discourse about environmental issues (mode of expression varied)
  • Engage with scholars in the field who are making important environmental contributions
  • Undertake a senior capstone project encompassing practical and theoretical experiences in environmental issues

Method of Evaluation

Self-assessment. Upon entering the major, students will write a one-page self-assessment. This assessment will be posted to the student's electronic portfolio and made available to the student's advisor. In the assessment, students will describe their reasons for selecting the major, their current strengths and weaknesses with respect to environmental studies, and their personal goals within the major, including plans for a concentration. They will be encouraged to integrate the program's learning goals in their self-assessment. Students will periodically meet with their environmental studies advisor to reflect on their progress in the major, using their self-assessment as a frame of reference. At minimum, these meetings will occur once per semester during the course scheduling period. Because environmental studies is inherently multidisciplinary and because every student is linked to a primary major, ENVS student trajectories within the major are highly individualized. The self-assessment will make these plans explicit, and will help both the student and advisor chart the most successful path through the major.

Senior capstone and senior colloquium. Every major completes a capstone project during their senior year. The format of the capstone is typically determined by the student's primary department (e.g., thesis, essay, performance, exhibit). The purpose of the capstone experience is to challenge students to think creatively, deeply, and originally about an environmental issue and to produce a significant work that uses their expertise from their primary major. Students formally propose their capstone projects at the end of their Junior year, and the proposals are evaluated and approved by the Chair of ENVS. Several times throughout their senior year, students present progress reports of their projects in the senior colloquium; faculty and student-peers attending the colloquia provide feedback for improvement. Finished capstone projects that are written under the auspices of the student's primary major are evaluated by the primary major department capstones written for ENVS are evaluated by the ENVS program.

Senior reflection. As a bookend to the self-assessment, seniors will be asked to reflect on their experiences in the major. They will analyze their personal development in environmental studies and how the program impacted their development. These reflections will be recorded in the form of a questionnaire. Also, during one of the final colloquia in the spring, students will be encouraged to share their thoughts in a group setting and this will be recorded.

How the Program Uses Assessment Information

The self-assessment and the subsequent iterative process between student and advisor of discussing the assessment will help to maximize student success in the program. The capstone projects and, more informally, the oral presentations in the senior colloquium, will help the ENVS faculty evaluate the success of the curriculum in fulfilling the learning goals of the program. Both the iterative process of the self-assessment and the senior reflection will help inform curricular needs. For a multidisciplinary program with its faculty spread across all three divisions, the three common experiences (self-assessment, senior capstone/senior colloquium, and senior reflection) will be critical for the evaluation of both students and the program. Once a year, a committee will use information from these common experiences to discuss the state of the program. A summary of these discussions, including any recommendations for change, will be shared with the full ENVS faculty.