A birds-eye view illustration of 3-D trees, roads, waterfalls, houses, grass and other tiny environmental features.


About the Minor

The Environmental Inquiry Minor is the undergraduate minor of the Penn State Institutes of Energy and Environment. The intent of the minor is to expose students with science-related backgrounds (majors) to humanities and social science, and vice versa; it is available to all baccalaureate degree candidates at all Penn State campuses.

The minor was created to enrich all areas of academic study with essential, cross-disciplinary understanding of crucial environmental issues and how they are being framed and tackled from both scientific and policy perspectives.

The Environmental Inquiry Minor seeks to introduce you to different ways of thinking about and studying the environment even if you already are enrolled in an environmental major. The coursework will give you a greater appreciation of the environment, a broader understanding of environmental issues and problems, and insight into alternative methods of inquiry.

The minor permits you to:

  • Explore your environmental interests
  • Learn about additional perspectives
  • Expand your understanding through a participatory approach and interactive learning style


The minor has seven areas of specialization, or focus areas. Students can select from one of seven course clusters options:

Biodiversity and Ecosystems | Environment and Society | Environmental Explorations

Ideas About the Environment | Water Resources | Human Settlements | Energy Resources


Why choose the environmental inquiry minor?

Human impact on the environment is an increasingly relevant issue as population grows, resources are consumed, and businesses and industries become ever more productive.

Addressing environmental impacts is controversial and involves complex debates that engage professionals from all fields. Now, more than ever, concerned agencies, organizations, and companies seek individuals knowledgeable about these important issues with experience communicating with people in professions outside of their own.

Being familiar with current environmental issues is important for all professional fields; it also is part of being a well-informed citizen.



The dual perspective of nature and society is important when trying to understand environmental issues in our world today. Our planet really needs interdisciplinary people!

The environment provides many exciting, interesting, and satisfying career choices stretching across a tremendous range of fields and disciplines. Working in the environmental field is rewarding because you can contribute to the maintenance and conservation of essential life systems necessary for our human survival.

“Customers prefer doing business with companies who maintain clean shops and protect the environment”

~Pam Evans, Coordinator for green businesses, Alameda County, CA.

"Talented writers who can handle highly specialized scientific or technical subjects have an advantage"

~U.S. Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics


If you have a background in science but also have ambitions to DO something about the environment, you might find that a lot of the decisions about the environment are made in political settings. To have success in improving the environment will require you to speak the language of policy makers.

The minor can help you on this track, exposing you to both the scientific background you need to understand environmental issues as well as the social science you need to promote these issues successfully.