Environmental Studies

Environmental Studies

Do you enjoy exploring the outdoors? Are you concerned about issues of social justice and sustainability? If so, you may be on your way to an environmental studies degree.

At Central, environmental studies majors choose from two tracks: environmental science or environmental sustainability. Both tracks include fundamentals of science, economics and politics, plus hands-on laboratory and fieldwork.

Graduates of Central’s program have gone on to careers in the lab, in the field and in management for federal and state agencies, as well as industry and non-profit agencies.

Central offers the first environmental studies major in Iowa
of Central students take a sustainability course as part of their core classes
Environmental studies majors learn to use GIS, the decision support software used by most natural resource managers and businesses

Beyond Central

Putting the “Hire” in Higher Education

  • Ted Dirkx ’11, recycling and forestry equipment specialist, Vermeer Corp., Pella
  • Jennifer Daugherty ’11, local foods coordinator, Iowa State University Extension and Outreach, Iowa City
  • Ryan Schmidt ’12, land stewardship director, Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation, Des Moines
  • Andrew Jackson ’15, conservation laborer, Polk County Conservation, Des Moines
  • Owen Shawgo ’17, GIS technician, JCG Land Services, Leon, Iowa
  • Tyron Steere ’16, natural resource manager, Floyd County Conservation, Charles City, Iowa

Central’s “Bee” Students

After classes, Central students keep busy caring for a rapidly vanishing species.


  • Bio-Chem Club
  • SCATE (Students Concerned About the Environment)

Graduate Placement

  • Sustainable agriculture, Iowa State University
  • Environmental science, The Ohio State University
  • Fishery biology, Southern Illinois University
  • Sustainable food systems, University of Montana
  • Urban and regional planning , University of Iowa
  • Conservation biology, Antioch University, New Hampshire
  • M.S. natural resources, University of Idaho McCall Outdoor Science School


  • U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Lake Red Rock
  • Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation
  • Iowa Department of Natural Resources
  • Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge
  • Vermeer Manufacturing
Central College student

Courses & Faculty

The environmental studies major consists of a strong background in the sciences, social sciences and an emphasis on developing good research and communication skills. Students in the program examine the interrelationships of science, society and nature in a world with limited resources. Every environmental studies major also proposes and completes a senior project, gaining experience in grant writing and project management along the way.

Students also gain experience with GIS, the decision support software used by most natural resource managers and businesses.

Learn more about this discipline in the course catalog.

Meet the Faculty

  • Russ Benedict, B.A., M.A., Ph.D., Professor of Biology
  • Anya Butt, B.A., M.S., Ph.D., Professor of Biology
  • Ashley Garr, B.S., M.S., Ph.D., Associate Professor of Chemistry
  • Cathy Haustein, B.A., M.F.A., Ph.D., Professor of Chemistry
  • Lee Macomber, B.S., M.S., Ph.D., Associate Professor of Biology
  • Tuan Nguyen, B.B.A., M.S., Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Economics
  • Jeremia Njeru, B.S., M.A., Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Sociology/Anthropology
  • George Nwaogu, B.A., M.A., Ph.D., Associate Professor of Economics
  • Paul Weihe, B.S., M.S., Ph.D., Associate Professor of Biology

Sample Coursework

First Year

  • Intro to Environmental Science¹ ²
  • Diversity of Life¹ ²
  • Introduction to Cells¹
  • General Chemistry¹
  • Principles of Microeconomics²
  • Core Courses¹ ²

Sophomore Year

  • Global Sustainability¹ ²
  • Principles of GIS¹ ²
  • Ecology & Evolution¹
  • Analytical Chemistry¹
  • Applied Statistics¹
  • Principles of Microeconomics¹
  • Intro to Environmental Chemistry²
  • Physical Geography²
  • American Environmental Politics & Policy²
  • Principles of Macroeconomics²
  • Major Electives¹ ²

Junior Year

  • Environmental Studies Seminar¹ ²
  • Planning for Sustainable Community¹ ²
  • Environmental Economics or Environmental Development²
  • Major Electives¹ ²
  • Core Courses¹ ²

Senior Year

  • Senior Seminar¹ ²
  • Major Electives¹ ²
  • Core Courses¹ ²

¹ Courses in the Environmental Science Track
² Courses in the Environmental Sustainability Track


Learn More

Want to find out more about Environmental Studies at Central? Contact us to learn more about this discipline and our other strong academic programs.

Visit campus to observe classes and experience The Central Difference firsthand.

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