Undergraduate Overview

Bachelor of Arts in Environmental Studies

Undergraduate Minors

  • Environmental Studies
  • Geographic Information Systems

Email: ens@uis.edu
Office Phone: (217) 206-7495
Office Location: PAC 350

Departmental Goals and Objectives

The mission of the Department of Environmental Studies is to provide students with the advanced interdisciplinary training necessary for solving environmental problems. Graduates of the department are prepared for diverse careers in the environmental field. Students will acquire knowledge and skills based on three broad learning outcomes:

  1. competency in scientific concepts when studying the environment;
  2. capacity to critically examine environmental issues and apply contributions from the natural sciences, social sciences, and the humanities for understanding and resolution of environmental issues and concerns; and
  3. ability to demonstrate and integrate knowledge of natural resource policy, regulations, and the current issues in natural resource management.

Completion of the BA in Environmental Studies at UIS will allow students to 

  • Identify the link between healthy ecosystems (air, water, and land) and healthy human populations.
  • Recognize the major components of the Earth’s systems and explain how they function.
  • Demonstrate literacy in and apply the scientific method.
  • Recognize the interrelationships between human systems and natural systems.
  • Demonstrate holistic analysis of the social and natural world.
  • Acquire a measure of logical skill in working through ethical and moral challenges dealing with environmental issues.
  • Assess the modern challenges related to sustainability.
  • Evaluate the complex processes driving anthropogenic impacts on the environment.
  • Analyze the important effects of political, economic, and educational forces on environmental policy and planning.
  • Assess the patterns of unequal distribution of resources and environmental consequences worldwide.

Curricular Requirements

The Bachelor of Arts in Environmental Studies at UIS includes a multi-disciplinary curriculum with interdisciplinary learning goals, incorporating the natural sciences, social sciences, and the humanities.

To earn their degree, students must complete a minimum of 34 credit hours, which include four core courses and seven elective courses. The four required core courses are ENS 251 Introduction to Environmental Sciences, ENS 271 Introduction to Sustainability, ENS 451 Undergraduate Capstone, and ENS 476 Environmental Ethics.

Because this is an interdisciplinary major, students must select at least two elective courses from each of three thematic areas: Environmental Policy/Law/Planning, Environmental Sciences, and Environmental Social Sciences/Humanities. At least four elective courses must be at the 400 level; two of the remaining electives must be either 300 or 400 level. Students must earn at least a C in the four required courses and a C average in the elective courses. Students are expected to meet with an ENS advisor before beginning the major.

Undergraduate Departmental Honors in Environmental Studies

1. What is Departmental Honors?

Departmental Honors is distinguished from “Undergraduate Honors” which is awarded at graduation for designated GPAs and are labeled summa cum laude, magna cum laude, and cum laude.  Departmental Honors is also separate from the Capital Scholars Honors Program, which has its own set of requirements.  Each academic program may define the requirements for Departmental Honors involving three elements:

  • Course work or closure requirements
  • Independent, high-quality research/scholarly/creative work
  • Specific grade point average requirements

2. What are the requirements?

Students pursuing Departmental Honors in ENS will complete the same Undergraduate Capstone closure course as other majors. However, the Capstone project must be the student’s research/scholarly/creative (R/S/C) work, which will necessarily be more substantive than the projects pursued by students not seeking Departmental Honors.  Students must enroll in at least 1 credit of ENS 425 Undergraduate Research to document their R/S/C work.

Topics encompassed by environmental studies are broad, and student R/S/C works will similarly be diverse.  Student R/S/C work might take the form of discovery, integration, application, or teaching.  (Please refer to Ernest Boyer’s Scholarship Reconsidered for detailed discussion of these terms.)  Students must present their results/products at a professional symposium or in a refereed medium before graduation.  Students will work directly with ENS faculty who will serve as the primary supervisor; if appropriate, other ENS faculty can assist.  Faculty supervisors will

  • Work collaboratively with students in developing and refining the R/S/C work
  • Advise the student regarding resources and/or course work needed to accomplish the R/S/C work
  • Advise the student regarding the Institutional Review Board, Institutional Committee for the Care and Use of Animals, and/or other units providing research oversight, if necessary for the particular R/S/C work
  • Read and critique the written component of the R/S/C work
  • Help the student find a forum for dissemination of the results; this may take the form of a professional symposium or publication in a refereed medium.

There are no a priori length minima or maxima for the written document that must be approved by the faculty supervisor; instead the length should be dictated by the topic.  Students should follow APA style unless there is a compelling reason the faculty supervisor requests another style (such as writing in the style of a particular journal where the manuscript will be submitted for publication).  The final written document must be approved by the faculty supervisor and the Undergraduate Capstone instructor; in the case where those positions are held by the same person, the department chair or designee will be the second approver.  This document must be approved before the week of final exams in the semester during which the student will graduate.

With the approval of the faculty supervisor, students may petition to apply up to four credits of ENS 425 Undergraduate Research based on their R/S/C work toward electives required for the major in Environmental Studies.  Those credits can be applied toward the total required number of upper division hours for a degree from UIS.  With an approved Individualized Course Title form, ENS 425 can be listed on the student’s transcripts with a more descriptive name representing the specific work being done.

To receive Departmental Honors students must graduate with a cumulative undergraduate, UIS, and ENS GPA of at least 3.5.  Students may apply to the Department Honors program for provisional admission provided that each of those GPAs are at least 3.25 and it is mathematically possible to bring them to 3.5 by the time of graduation.

3. Application to Department Honors

Students interested in pursuing Department Honors must work individually with faculty to identify a feasible R/S/C work.  An application must be completed and approved by the faculty supervisor and department chair; a copy of the application will be retained by the department and by the Office of Undergraduate Education.  Applications must be approved by 15 March of the spring before the Undergraduate Capstone is taken.  This allows at least one year to complete the research, including time to seek funding (if necessary) and prepare for presentation at a symposium or publication.  Send an email to ens@uis.edu to request an application for the Departmental Honors program.