University of Southern California

Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences

Environmental Studies

Social Sciences Building B15
(213) 740-7770
FAX: 740-8566

Director: James F. Haw, Ph.D.


Professors: Katrina Edwards, Ph.D (Biological Sciences); James Haw, Ph.D. (Chemistry); Mark Thompson, Ph.D. (Chemistry)

Assistant Professor: Roderick McKenzie, Ph.D.

Associate Professor of the Practice: Yael Wonlinsky-Nahmias, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor of the Practice: Juliana Wang, Ph.D.

Associate Professor (Teaching): David Ginsburg, Ph.D.

Lecturers: Lisa Collins, Ph.D.; Kristen Weiss, Ph.D.

Emeritus Professor: Thomas Flood, Ph.D. (Chemistry)

Undergraduate Programs

The environmental studies program offers two undergraduate majors, environmental studies (ENVS) and environmental science and health (ENSH). Each of these majors lead to either a B.A. or B.S. degree.

The environmental studies degrees are built on specialized natural science and social science courses and a set of interdisciplinary courses focusing on sustainability. The social science core courses focus on environmental problems from political, legal, economic and international perspectives. Specially designed one-semester surveys of biology, earth science and chemistry provide the natural science competency for subsequent policy or science advanced course work in environmental studies. Four concentrations are available in the environmental studies degrees: sustainability, energy and society; oceans, life and people; climate, earth and environment; and environmental public policy. Each concentration culminates in the capstone experience of a senior seminar focusing on environmental problem-solving by interdisciplinary teams. A single 24-unit environmental studies minor is derived from the core major curriculum.

The environmental science and health degrees combine the interdisciplinary courses on sustainability described above and some of the environmental social science content with traditional biology and chemistry content to provide options for students preparing for one of the health professions with an undergraduate emphasis on environmental sustainability. The B.S. in environmental science and health incorporates recommended preparation for medical schools. The B.A. in environmental science and health may be appropriate for students preparing for other graduate or professional training as well as students pursuing double majors.

The environmental studies courses common to both majors emphasize the interdisciplinary nature of environmental problems. Some of the major courses are team-taught by faculty with complementary backgrounds in science and policy. A number of opportunities are provided for field studies from the urban Los Angeles environment to marine protected areas on the coasts of the California Channel Islands. More intensive field study opportunities include “Problems Without Passports” courses with international components. Note that some of the field studies opportunities require travel to remote, rural locations and study under sometimes physically and mentally demanding conditions. These trips require a willingness to conform to the announced guidelines for conduct and safety.

Catalina Sustainability Semester

The environmental studies program in collaboration with the department of biological sciences and the Wrigley Marine Science Center has created a new Catalina sustainability semester focusing on California marine, coastal and island sustainability. This semester-long program is being offered for the first time spring 2014. The 16 units of course work in this program will be taught in a block format (sequential) and are designed to take advantage of the unique facilities and settings of Catalina Island. Enrolled students will be provided with food and lodging at the Wrigley Marine Science Center at rates roughly comparable to the services on the University Park Campus.

The curriculum is partially based on American Academy of Underwater Sciences (AAUS) scientific SCUBA diving. Students will be trained in basic and advanced diving methods and their application to scientific research in the waters of Catalina Island. Students will take formal classes in diving physics and physiology, marine and coastal management, conservation genetics, and sustainable fisheries management. In-water laboratory and research projects will provide experiential components to each of these subjects.

Suggested preparation for the Catalina sustainability semester includes completion of either ENST 100, BISC 120L or comparable experience. Applicants will be required to have an approved AAUS dive physical on file with the USC diving safety officer and demonstrate the ability to swim 400 meters in 12 minutes in the ocean. Prospective applicants are urged to contact the Environmental Studies Office in SOS B15 early in the fall semester prior to enrollment and no later than October 15 for consideration.

Graduate Programs

The Master of Arts degree program in environmental studies is also interdisciplinary and focuses on public policy and its related facets. Those who graduate with an M.A. in environmental studies are well prepared to pursue careers in policy, planning or management in the public, private or nonprofit sector in either this country or abroad. In addition, the curriculum provides students with a foundation for acquiring a Ph.D. in environmental studies or a related field, or a law degree. Individuals who are already employed in the pollution control and remediation field will find the M.A. degree attractive as well. Upon completion of the graduate program, students will possess extensive knowledge of environmental science, environmental statistics and economics, law and regulation, policy and planning, development and economic growth, and global issues and problems.

The Master of Science degree in environmental risk analysis focuses on providing advanced professional training for students with a B.S. degree in natural sciences or engineering. Students will pursue a core program encompassing science, engineering and finance supplemented with important skills courses in risk assessment, statistics and computer modeling and simulations. Those who graduate with the M.S. degree will be well prepared to pursue professional careers in business and industry, which build on their degrees in the natural sciences. This degree will produce individuals with the analytical and problem-solving skills of natural scientists combined with the necessary training in finance and management needed in the business world.