Interdivisional Programs

Environmental and Urban Studies

Overview

Finding workable solutions for environmental and urban problems requires a broad set of methodologies. Both biogeophysical systems and human societies (cultures, economies, political regimes) are nested complex systems. Environmental and Urban Studies (EUS) is an interdisciplinary program that examines the interdependence of human societies and the physical environment. The program strives to ensure that majors have a solid background in the physical sciences, humanities, economics, and policy. It also aims to enhance students’ understanding of the complexities of environmental and urban issues and their awareness of interrelationships between built and “natural” environments.

The program allows students to engage intellectually with people across disciplines, and acquire practical skill sets and hands-on experience addressing urban and environmental challenges. Students take several rigorous interdisciplinary and disciplinary core courses, complete an internship and a practicum, and attend the EUS Colloquium. To balance transdisciplinary breadth with depth in a particular discipline, students also take intermediate and advanced courses in a chosen focus area. Expertise developed through focus area studies prepares the student for the Senior Project.

The Hudson River, its estuaries and wetlands, the Catskill Mountains, the valley communities, and other historical and natural resources provide a laboratory for empirical research. The campus is also home to Hudsonia, an independent environmental and educational institute, as well as the Bard College Field Station. The EUS Program has links to Bard’s Globalization and International Affairs Program in New York City and to a rich variety of internship and study abroad programs. Students can also draw on the resources of the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library, the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies, Scenic Hudson, Riverkeeper, and the Hudson River Sloop Clearwater.

EUS majors with a strong foundation in science and/or economics may apply to the 3+2 program with the Bard Center for Environmental Policy, earning in five years a B.A. and a master of science in environmental policy or in climate science and policy.

Senior Projects have addressed questions pertaining to a wide variety of topics, including environment and population growth; sustainable development; environmental impacts of globalization; international efforts to protect the environment; land ownership and the distribution of wealth; the environment and human health; environmental racism; alternative energy; urban sprawl; land-use planning; land and tax policy; wilderness and watershed protection; habitat loss; agricultural subsidies; organic farming; pollution control policy; transportation policy; ecotourism; the viability of small communities; and environmental politics, art, and education.

Focus Areas

The following focus areas suggest the breadth of possibilities for advanced study within EUS: agriculture and food systems; urban/regional planning; ecology and conservation; environment, society, and culture; environmental economics, policy, and development; environmental science and health; sustainable systems; and environmental communications.

Requirements

EUS requirements strike a balance between the interdisciplinary breadth necessary to address complex environmental problems and the depth and rigor of an individualized focus area. By the sophomore year, an EUS major should have an academic adviser who is an EUS core faculty member. To moderate into the program, a student must have taken the core courses EUS 101 and 102 (Introduction to Environmental and Urban Studies and Introduction to Environmental and Urban Science), plus one 200-level EUS course in one of the following: economics, social/historical analysis (other than economics), and laboratory science (environmental science, biology, chemistry, or physics). The student provides four documents to the Moderation board: the customary two papers outlining his or her academic past and future plan of study, a paper that defines and rationalizes the student’s focus area and names specific courses the student may take to complete that area and other requirements, and a sample of scholarly writing. The Moderation board will not pass a student if the focus area plan is not feasible, coherent, and sufficiently targeted. See the EUS website for details.

Graduation requirements include one 200-level EUS course in economics; one 200-level EUS course in social/historical analysis (other than economics); one 200-level EUS course in laboratory science; EUS 305, EUS Practicum, which includes fieldwork (some study abroad programs may satisfy the practicum requirement); EUS Colloquium (2 credits); one EUS internship or service project (0 credits); 14 additional credits in a well-defined focus area, with at least two courses at the 300 level and one covering methodologies relevant to the focus area (e.g., GIS, biostatistics, or ethnography); and the Senior Project.

Recent Senior Projects in Environmental and Urban Studies

  • “Corporate Swine: How the Pork Industry Is Destroying North Carolina’s Environment”
  • “Landscapes of Control: River Infrastructure in the Mississippi Delta”
  • “Outside the Frame: Mapping and Urban Space in the United States”

Courses

EUS offers several dozen courses in a typical semester. Due to the interdisciplinary nature of the program, many of these courses are offered by programs across the four divisions of the College and cross-listed with EUS. The EUS website provides a complete list of courses, including graduate-level courses at the Bard Center for Environmental Policy that are open to EUS students.