Environmental & Sustainability 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

  • Bria Holthe ’23, Grants Coordinator, Community Action Coalition for South Central Wisconsin
  • Kaylin Carel ’23, GIS Analyst, Duke Energy
  • Sam Beatty ’23, Environmental Assistant Scientist, Terracon
  • Tyron Steer ’16, Natural Resource Manager, Floyd County Conservation
  • Kari Sandage ’15, Environmental Educator, Peace Corps
  • Brandon Clough ’13, Natural Resources Specialist, Story County
  • Gregory Oldsen ’13, Naturalist, Jasper County Iowa
  • Ryan Schmidt ’12, Land Stewardship Specialist, Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation

Three Central Students Awarded Latinos Unidos of Iowa Scholarships

Latinos Unidos of Iowa awarded scholarships to three Central College students.


  • 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

Off-Campus Experiences

Central students can study off-campus — both internationally or domestically in the United States. These opportunities give students the chance to prepare to be global citizens, equipped to compete in the global job market. Students can check out experiences led by Central faculty or attend select academic programs across the world that provide opportunities for study, service, internships and other types of experiential learning. Options include experiences in Chicago, Washington, D.C., Central America, Ghana, England, the Scottish Highlands and more.

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
  • Lee Macomber, B.S., M.S., Ph.D., Associate Professor of Biology
  • Tuan Nguyen, B.B.A., M.S., Ph.D., Associate Professor of Economics
  • George Nwaogu, B.A., M.A., Ph.D., Associate Professor of Economics
  • Paul Weihe, B.S., M.S., Ph.D., Associate Professor of Biology
  • Amy Young, B.A., M.A., Ph.D., Associate Professor of German
  • Jim Zaffiro, B.A., M.A., Ph.D., Professor of Political Science

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 Coursework in the Environmental Science Track
² Coursework in the Environmental Sustainability Track


Learn More

Want to find out more about Environmental & Sustainability 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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