College of the Environment, Forestry, and Natural Sciences2021-2022

School of Earth and Sustainability

Environmental and Sustainability Studies, Bachelor of Science

Learning Outcomes

Purpose Statement

The Environmental and Sustainability Studies program at NAU constructs an interdisciplinary base of knowledge and skills that integrates humanistic disciplines and perspectives with natural and social scientific approaches to develop real-world solutions to our environmental and sustainability challenges, from the local to the global.

Our BS degree program begins with a firm grounding in natural systems, to ensure all students understand how physical and biological processes maintain life, and how humans are affecting, and are affected by, the natural world. In addition to the natural sciences, students will also obtain a solid understanding of the environment through focusing on the social sciences and humanities in order to develop a critical appreciation of the historical, political, economic and ethical forces that have shaped our current environmental issues. This will prepare students for work in non-profit, government and community-action organizations.

Students will work together in field and lab environments to apply rigorous qualitative and quantitative methods to environmental and sustainability issues, exploring interdisciplinary impacts and solutions that range across space and time. Interdisciplinary experience is centered around focus areas or specific environmental problems, rather than disciplines. This structure produces students well-trained in both the fundamentals of multiple disciplines as well as specific knowledge needed to understand, analyze and become engaged in particular issues and professions. Additionally for the BA degree, students will attain foreign language competency and experience with cross-cultural communication to better understand the impact of environmental issues on global communities.

This issue-based approach allows students to attain a wide knowledge base in order to approach the solution of specific problems by working individually and together with other students. To culminate learning in the program, students develop an individually designed research project or internship addressing an environmental issue of importance to them, which helps to further prepare students for a range of professional or graduate opportunities.

Student Learning Outcomes
  • Understand interactions among natural and human systems and their relationships to sustainability science.
  • Explore the concept of global and local sustainability using examples from natural science, social science, and humanities perspectives.
  • Examine feedbacks between the human experience and the environment.
  • Identify and effectively communicate environmental issues and sustainable solutions using natural science, ethical, and social science principles.
  • Explore the components of, and the interactions between, the Earth system such as lithosphere, hydrosphere, soils, atmosphere, and how people and society interact with these systems.
  • Envision environmental problems through a lens that acknowledges component interactions, feedback loops, emergent properties, and uncertainty.
  • Apply knowledge of coupled human-natural systems to address complex environmental problems such as decision-making in the face of uncertainty.
  • Investigate the effects of resource use and management within linked natural and social systems and learn ways to maintain healthy ecosystem services.
  • Apply knowledge of the policy cycle, stakeholders, the science policy interface and environmental legislation to inform sustainability policies.
  • Incorporate sustainability principles into interdisciplinary policy decision-making, to generate innovative ideas.
  • Demonstrate competence in critical thought and communication.
  • Actively participate in field and lab research including data collection, management, analysis and synthesis.
  • Participate in internship or research activities that align environmental studies concepts to address and resolve environmental issues.
  • Attain experience with cross-cultural communication.
  • Investigate the core concepts of life sciences including nutrient cycling, applications of ecology, biological diversity, conservation biology, and the role of these concepts in human and natural systems.

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