Academic Catalog and Handbooks

2023-2024 Edition

Environmental Studies

Department Chair: Derek Larson

Faculty: Corrie Grosse, Troy Knight, Derek Larson, Jean Lavigne, Kyhl Lyndgaard, Joseph Storlien

The environmental studies department takes an interdisciplinary approach to the study of the environment and sustainability issues, integrating perspectives from the humanities, social sciences, natural sciences, and fine arts, and applies these perspectives to issues ranging from global warming to the environmental impacts of our own lifestyle choices. Because environmental problems and their potential solutions do not stop at disciplinary boundaries, our curriculum teaches students to approach a particular topic not simply as a question of biology, politics, or theology, but rather to combine these (and many more) perspectives to better understand environmental and sustainability issues in all their complexity. Particularly important to this process is the inclusion of social science and humanities viewpoints, as even the most technical solutions to environmental problems must be implemented by individuals working within cultural, political, and economic contexts. Five environmental studies faculty and supporting faculty from over a dozen different academic departments contribute to the program; students also have access to professional staff with responsibility for environmental and sustainability issues on both campuses in areas ranging from physical plant to grounds, dining services to transportation, including Environmental Health and Safety, the College of St. Benedict Office of Sustainability, the St. John's Outdoor University, and other related offices. The unique ecological resources of our two campuses include nearly 3,000 acres of deciduous and coniferous forests, restored oak savanna, tall grass prairie, wetlands, and a diversity of large and small lakes. This setting, which is carefully managed in the tradition of Benedictine stewardship, provides a wealth of opportunities for the hands-on exploration of environmental issues as well as venues for outdoor recreation and reflection.

Students majoring or minoring in environmental studies come from a wide range of backgrounds and areas of interest, but all share an essential curiosity about and concern for the environment and a sustainable future. The interdisciplinary nature of the program requires students to hone their skills in reading, writing, critical thinking, quantitative analysis, and argumentation to become well-rounded thinkers adept at developing and expressing reasoned opinions not only about environmental and sustainability issues, but in all aspects of their intellectual lives. Undergraduate research is central to the major curriculum; all graduates must complete a senior thesis and competitive summer research fellowships are regularly available. Experiential learning components are incorporated into many courses, including laboratories, service learning projects, field studies, and a required internship for majors. A variety of co-curricular and volunteer activities offer students interested in environmental education, outdoor recreation, food and agriculture, environmental activism, campus sustainability practices, and other related topics frequent opportunities to directly connect with others who share their interests, often alongside faculty and staff affiliated with the program. Majors and minors in environmental studies pursue a wide range of careers, not only in environmental and sustainability fields but in many other professions for which a traditional liberal arts education serves as preparation. Many also go on to advanced study in related fields such as energy development, environmental law, public policy, natural resource management, journalism, landscape architecture, and environmental education. Complete information on the environmental studies program is available on-line at


The Environmental Studies Department's curriculum emphasizes research, writing, and problem- solving skills in an environmental/sustainability context. The departmental assessment program thus focuses on evaluating student outcomes via problem-solving and skill-building exercises embedded in required courses and a variety of research activities. The assessment program culminates with the senior research theses, all of which are evaluated as a group annually by the department faculty.