The GECS core requirements provide all majors with a solid background in the environmental and social aspects of our changing world. Students choose either the Environmental Science or Social Science Concentration for more in-depth study in their area of greater interest. Both concentrations require courses in environmental science and social science; the proportion depends on the concentration.
A key component of the GECS major is the senior capstone experience, involving the research, planning, and execution of a tangible sustainability project on or off campus. The capstone experience provides the academic space, time, and mentoring for the student to integrate and synthesize the knowledge and skills obtained during the previous three years into a coherent framework in preparation for life and work after graduation.
To further enhance the students’ perspective of the global nature of the issues and differences in world views of different cultures, students are encouraged to include study abroad opportunities in their course of study.
A total of 24 courses (81 credits) are required for the Environmental Science Concentration; 25 courses (78 credits) are required for the Social Science Concentration. Six additional humanities credits are required for all GECS majors to fulfill the University’s distribution requirements, but several GECS courses can be taken as electives to fulfill this requirement. Courses within the major cannot be double-counted. For example, a core course cannot also be used as an elective. All courses must be taken for a letter grade, and students must receive a grade of C- or better to apply the course towards the major.
Courses can be selected from a diversity of offerings available from different departments. Core courses are offered through the departments of Earth & Planetary Sciences, Mathematics, Economics, Chemistry, Engineering, and Political Science. For electives, the major draws upon additional pertinent course offerings from these departments as well as from Anthropology, Sociology, History, Biology, Physics, and Public Health Studies. All of these disciplines are relevant to global environmental change and sustainability, both in understanding the problems we face and in developing potential solutions.
- Core courses: 13 core courses are required for all GECS majors
- Environmental Science Concentration option:
- Social Science Concentration option:
- Capstone experience
Upon completion of the major, students will demonstrate:
- Interdisciplinarity: The ability to study, synthesize, and integrate interdisciplinary knowledge and research methodologies when evaluating or seeking solutions to environmental problems.
- Knowledge: A strong grounding in a broad set of disciplines within the social sciences, natural sciences, and humanities that are relevant to global environmental change and sustainability.
- Critical thinking skills: The ability to analyze, interpret, and synthesize information and ideas from diverse sources, to evaluate the relevance and validity of information, empirical evidence, and theoretical arguments, and to solve challenging problems and arrive at well-reasoned conclusions.
- Research: The ability to develop a research topic, articulate a thesis, employ relevant quantitative and qualitative research methods, understand the strengths and limitations of various research designs, evaluate and interpret the results, document and effectively use sources, and communicate the conclusions.
- Communication: The ability to express facts, ideas, opinions, and beliefs in a variety of written and oral formats, to organize and present evidence-based scientific ideas, to communicate scientific understanding to both scientific and general audiences, and to write and speak clearly, precisely, and cohesively.
- Hands-on experience: The ability to complete hands-on projects involving original research, internships, service projects, and field trips. In the process of the capstone experience, they will synthesize and integrate the knowledge and skills obtained through their coursework into a coherent framework and project, in preparation for life and work after graduation.