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

Focus Areas

The intent of the minor is to expose students in science-related majors to courses in the humanities and social sciences, and vice versa. To help students select courses that address their environmental interests, we have defined seven different focus areas that can guide individuals to classes that they find relevant.


Examples of focus areas for different minors

The minor is flexible to suit your personal interests. There are as many course combinations as there are students. You can look at some examples of students from different majors by following the links below. After you’ve looked at them, why don't you try to compose one for yourself? Look at the course list and see which courses you have already taken and find courses that interest you.



Journalism/Public Relations

Social Science/Humanities


Focus areas within the minor

The minor has seven focus areas consisting of recommended combinations of courses. Students can select from one of seven focus areas to help orient their studies, (note that is it possible to combine courses from more than one focus area). The focus of each option is described below.

Biodiversity and Ecosystems

This specialization prepares a student to learn about the importance of biodiversity in ecosystems. Over the last 100 years, humans have dramatically reduced the biodiversity on earth primarily through causing loss of natural habitat. To reduce the pressure on the world’s biological resources will take political will, scientific research, and creativity in planning. A central emphasis of this focus area is on developing effective understanding of land management practices that can enhance the prospects for maintaining biological diversity.
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Environment and Society

This specialization provides insights into the debates and challenges about the distribution and utilization of the world’s environmental resources. All people deserve to live in a safe environment regardless of their income, skin color, religion, or gender. Yet, many of the poorest people in the world live in unsafe environmental settings. Research in many different fields of social science, as well as ethical research, is required to understand how to promote and achieve an environmentally just world.

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Environmental Explorations

This specialization scrutinizes the range of debates, practices and possibilities guiding discussions of how to achieve equitable and sustainable development. Global and national discussions are beginning to probe how we can move toward a future where resources are more effectively utilized and the environment is maintained while achieving wellbeing for the whole world. A cross-disciplinary approach is necessary to promote an understanding of these broad discussions.

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Ideas About the Environment

This specialization engages the philosophical and political challenges underpinning concerns of modern environmentalism. People have always contemplated the meaning of the world around them and the ways in which their reality is shaped by the environment. The meaning and value of the environment, therefore, depends on a person’s range of understanding, ideas, and representations of the physical world. To operate effectively, civil society must be based on open discussions, including environmental concerns, and this requires basic levels of ecological literacy.

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Water Resources

This specialization emphasizes basic literacy required to understand the debates surrounding water as a resource and offers insights into what people can do to protect and maintain its integrity. Water and water resources are central to human life, and yet modern industrialization and human settlement patterns are creating untenable competition for water between humans and other flora and fauna. Basic science is required to ascertain problems of supply. Social science  is required to understand challenges facing water supply and utilization and the search for approaches to utilization of the world’s water resources.

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Human Settlements

This specialization examines human settlement patterns and their interaction with the environment. Particular emphasis is placed on patterns of development, human movement, and migration patterns, as well as environmental impacts. As population increases worldwide, land is increasingly taxed beyond its capacity. Zoning regulations, suburban sprawl, and uneven settlement that converts fertile agricultural land to other useshave all become major issues within the policy spectrum that must be dealt with to ensure a positive future for the entire world population.

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Energy Resources

This specialization offers a glimpse into the emerging technology that exists in the energy sector. As the worldwide supply of fossil fuels diminishes, and the demand for those fuels increases, new energy technology must be developed to power our planet. In recent years, energy sustainability and the use of infinite resources have been considered serious options for the first time. Thus, this focus area employs an interdisciplinary strategy with the goal of educating individuals on a broad-range of emerging technologies in relation to energy resources.

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