Why Study Environmental Studies at New College?

Founded in the early 1970s, New College's Environmental Studies AOC is one of the oldest of its type in the country. Our program is designed to help students focus on the major issues of our time, including climate change, sea level rise, food security, urban environments, governing the oceans, and environmental conservation and stewardship. As a student in our Environmental Studies program, you will work alongside expert faculty from a dozen disciplines to solve problems: testing water or soil quality, looking at policies regarding land and marine use, finding and identifying invasive species, exploring systems modeling, studying statistics used in data analysis and delving into environmental awareness.

Environmental Studies area of concentration

An interdisciplinary program, Environmental Studies draws students from varied backgrounds. Ideally students bring skills from several disciplines to bear on questions regarding the relationship between people and the environment. The program is built around five key concepts: scale, systems, place, values, and change. Environmental problems (and solutions) occur at different scales from local to global. Ecological systems, political systems, and social systems interact in complicated ways. Sense of place, place attachment and values are key factors that must be incorporated in successful solutions to environmental problems. Understanding change and effecting change, are key skills for anyone working in the environmental field.

There has always been a risk in liberal arts education that knowledge will become detached from practice, that students will become intellectual jugglers of arcana, unable to affect the world. Recently undergraduate education has been criticized for disconnecting academic ideas and scholarship from social and environmental settings. The Environmental Studies Program seeks to “ground” students in two ways – first, by emphasizing demonstrated competence in real-world skills and second, by attempting to connect students with a landscape or community.

The Environmental Studies Program emphasizes demonstrated competence in these areas: understanding of ecological theory; skill in descriptive observation; skill in quantitative measurement and statistical analysis; computer literacy and comfort with several types of software; communication skill in both writing and public speaking; service to the community; and local sense of place.

Environmental Studies students are drawn out of the classroom to consider complex issues that require multi-track thinking — analysis from the natural sciences and solutions from the social sciences and humanities. Students are encouraged to find a site or a community, distant or close at hand, that they will seek to understand, communicate about, and possibly improve. Naturally enough, many students find research topics or sites in southwest Florida, a provocative mix of burgeoning sprawl and shrinking natural areas. In addition, the campus itself has become an object of recent study, as the focus of several classes and tutorials. For example, one recent student project turned expanse of lawn into educational gardens.

The most successful students are able to align their personal academic interests with the needs of community, asking and answering questions that have real application. While most choose the Environmental Studies Area of Concentration, students can meet requirements in two areas for a double Area of Concentration such as Environmental Studies and Psychology. Students desiring to complete a joint disciplinary degree (e.g. Political Science/Environmental Studies) must complete the nine core requirements listed below, but not the additional five track courses.

View Environmental Studies Academic Learning Compact


Area of Concentration Requirements

Core Requirements

  1. Introduction to Environmental Studies
  2. Foundations in Biology I
  3. A Chemistry course or full term tutorial taught by Chemistry faculty
  4. A Psychology course
  5. An environmentally oriented Political Science or Economics course – e.g., Sustainable Development, Environmental Economics (Introduction to Microeconomics is a prerequisite for Environmental Economics).
  6. An environmentally oriented Anthropology, History, or Urban Studies course – e.g., Urban Sociology, Ecological Anthropology
  7. An environmentally oriented Ethics, Literature, Music, or Religion course – e.g., Judaism and Ecology, Music and the Environment
  8. Environmental Studies Practicum: This can be either an ISP, full term course or tutorial (e.g. Pollinator Ecology Tutorial, Organic Gardening Tutorial), or full term internship and must involve teamwork with other students to complete an environmental project.
  9. A Capstone Seminar focusing on group discussion of core environmental readings. This is taken in the 4th year.

In addition to the Environmental Studies Core, students are required to complete five additional courses or tutorials in one of the following tracks: Policy Track (consult with Dr. Alcock), Science Track (consult with Dr. Saarinen) , Urban Studies Track (consult with Dr. Brain) and Student Designed Track (consult with Environmental Studies Director) These will be determined by you and your expected thesis sponsor within your desired track. A methods and a statistics course are strongly recommended.

Finally, all Environmental Studies Area of Concentration Students are required to prepare a research grant proposal approved by their senior thesis sponsor and Environmental Studies Steering Committee. They must satisfactorily complete a senior thesis or project related to the environment. And, they must satisfactorily complete a baccalaureate exam with a faculty member of the Environmental Studies Steering Committee serving as a member of the committee.

Joint Disciplinary AOC Requirements

Students desiring to complete a joint disciplinary degree (e.g. Political Science/Environmental Studies) must complete the nine core requirements listed above, but not the additional five track courses.


Faculty are drawn from throughout the College. The Environmental Studies Area of Concentration is coordinated by the Environmental Studies Steering Committee.

Recent Theses

  • Garbage and Government: Recycle Now, Sarasota County, and the Politicalization of Urban Waste
  • Managing Fisheries: a Case Study of Conceptual Frameworks for Policy Design
  • Sea Level Rise in Southwest Florida: An Economic Benefit-Cost Analysis of Policy Alternatives
  • Herbicide Resistant Crops: Can Genetic Engineering Contribute to Sustainable Agriculture?
  • Longleaf Pine: Florida’s Sunflower Forest
  • An Ecological Assessment of the Caples Stormwater Detention Pond
  • Spiraling Toward Sustainability: Permaculture Design at New College

Careers of Environmental Studies Graduates

Strategic Performance Management Manager
Pinellas County, Florida

Executive Director
Suncoast Waterkeeper, Sarasota, Florida

Principal Scientist

Maglio Christopher & Taole

Assistant Librarian
New College of Florida

SAMPLE PATHWAYS to complete AOC Requirements

These pathways show how you could complete the AOC requirements within four years at New College or within two years after earning an associate’s degree. Please consult with your academic adviser to determine the most appropriate courses for your area of concentration.