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Environmental Studies

Department Overview

Welcome to Swarthmore College’s Environmental Studies (ENVS) program.

Begun in 1992 as a concentration (minor), ENVS expanded to a Tri-College minor in 2012, then added a major in 2016 and an honors major in 2018.

We are an inherently interdisciplinary community that draws on expertise in the humanities, natural sciences and engineering, and the social sciences to tackle environmental issues of great complexity and sociopolitical importance. Our mission is to enable students to be responsible custodians of a rapidly changing and interconnected world.

We prepare students with the tools and action-based strategies to embrace challenges, build coalitions, and develop personal agency around environmental issues. Central to this mission is an emphasis on equity, collaboration and reciprocity in all environmental work. The program offers minors, majors, honors majors, research projects, and affiliated community-based learning projects in the broad field of Environmental Studies.

Program Goals:

Through completion of the ENVS program, students will:

  • Develop a foundational literacy in the physical, economic, socio-political, and historical bases of environmental issues.
  • Explore the human dimensions of environmental issues and acknowledge their own position in relation to those issues.
  • Engage multiple perspectives, including Indigenous knowledge and perspectives, and/or community-based perspectives, to promote justice and foster reciprocal relationships between human societies and the environments on which they depend. 
  • Foster respectful relationships with the natural world, recognizing the interdependence that should guide our research, activism, and policy-making
  • Respond to the realities and consequences of climate change by helping build coalitions to mitigate harm and increase joyful resilience.
Chemistry and Environmental Studies Professor Chris Graves with his ENVS 001 students on a field trip to the Limerick Generating Station.

Chemistry and Environmental Studies Professor Chris Graves with his ENVS 001 students on a field trip to the Limerick Generating Station.

ENVS Our Food Garden Harvest

Harvest time at Our Food Garden

Swarthmore College Student Delegation attending COP 28 in Dubai

Swarthmore Student Delegation attending COP 28 in Dubai 

Capstone:Environmental Communication Hope and Action

The Hope and Action Capstone students and Professor Di Chiro had an open house organized with many booths offering interactive activities to engage students about climate change and to prepare for the People's Climate March in DC in April. 

ENVS 009 visiting a farm

ENVS 009 visiting Walmoore Holsteins Farm

Professor Jennifer Pfluger and Green House and Garden Manager Rhonda Hilt

Professor Jennifer Pfluger and Green House and Garden Manager Rhonda Hilt. "Our Food " Garden was featured as one of the local farms supporting the Harvest Dinner. 

Eric Jensen

 Eric Jensen  is a professor of Astronomy.

Christy Schuetze

Anthropologist Christy Schuetze visits a spirit medium with whom she's been working since 2001. 

Chris Graves

Chemistry and Environmental Studies Professor Chris Graves designs aluminum compounds for development of more sustainable catalytic processes. 

José-Luis Machado

Ecologist José-Luis Machado engages his students in the Crum woods next to campus.  


Tim Burke

Historian Tim Burke teaches the Environmental History of Africa while more broadly considering possibilities inherent in digital humanities and relationships between theory and popular culture.

Betsy Bolton

English professor and Fulbright scholar Betsy Bolton shares digital stories with some of her collaborators: Hamid and Mohammed, traditional artisans in the Fès medina.  

ENVS celebrating the new major

Faculty, staff and students celebrated the birth of the Environmental Studies major on May 5 with cake, t-shirts and nachos.

Visit with the beekeeper

ENVS 009 visiting the beekeeper

Giovanna Di Chiro

Giovanna Di Chiro is an internationally-renown scholar of environmental science and policy and the first full-time faculty member of the Program. Professor Di Chiro will be teaching ENVS 035/POLS 043B. Environmental Justice: Theory and Action and ENVS 043/ENGL 089/SOAN 020M Race, Gender, Class and the Environment.

Chemistry and Environmental Studies Professor Chris Graves with his ENVS 001 students on a field trip to the Limerick Generating Station.

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Environmental Studies at the Lang Center

One of the central goals of the Environmental Studies program is for students to see their own world through others’ eyes in order to understand the human dimension of environmental issues. (Human beings are, after all, part of the environment.)  Community- and project-based learning is thus central to the Environmental Studies program.

The Lang Center for Civic and Social Responsibility supports Swarthmore faculty, staff, and students as they engage with “surrounding communities both locally and globally, for mutual benefit and reciprocally enriching relationships.”

This fall, connections between Environmental Studies and the Lang Center will become even closer and more explicit.  The Environmental Studies program and the Peace and Conflict Studies program will begin holding office hours on the second floor of the southern half of the Lang Center; several environmental studies classes will be held in the Lang Center, and a variety of co-curricular events will be jointly hosted by the Environmental Studies program and the Lang Center.  Stay tuned for more news!


ENVS faculty hold a range of opinions about divestment

Swarthmore’s Environmental Studies faculty, all agreed on the urgent importance of mitigating climate change, nonetheless hold a range of opinions about the efficacy of the divestment movement.