Program Overview

About the Environmental Studies Program at SF State

We produce exceptional graduates who are grounded in the study of contemporary environmental problems and solutions. The program provides students with the knowledge and skills required for understanding relationships between humans and the physical world. It examines how the environment is being used, abused, and perceived, and what individuals and organizations are doing and can do to protect it for themselves, future generations, and other living beings and ecosystems. Students participate in an internshipand take a senior seminar. Both requirements emphasize community engagement and preparation for future environmental careers.

  • We offer both Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Science degrees in Environmental Studies.
  • Our program draws upon the environmental leadership of the San Francisco Bay region, the strong campus commitment to social justice, and active campus sustainability efforts.
  • Environmental Studies is a field that crosses the boundaries of traditional disciplines, challenging faculty and students to look at environmental issues from a variety of perspectives.
  • Our students have the opportunity to integrate coursework in the physical and life sciences, social sciences, humanities, business, and ethnic studies.
  • Our faculty are drawn from many disciplines, including Geography, Environmental Chemistry, Geosciences, Conservation Biology, Urban Studies and Planning, Broadcast and Communication Arts, Business, Political Science, and Sociology. The faculty are teaching and actively investigating environmental issues of local and international concern.
  • The program attracts students from a wide range of academic interests and cultural backgrounds, and produces high quality undergraduates ready for careers in the environmental field.
  • We strive to inspire students to become active citizens and to make social change to address environmental issues.

What’s the difference between Environmental Studies and Environmental Science?

Environmental studies is an interdisciplinary major that brings together social sciences, humanities, and natural science to study environmental issues. To understand and address environmental problems, students must understand both the natural science relevant to the problem, and the social systems responsible for creating the problems and for generating solutions. For example, in order to understand global climate change and the important role of deforestation, students must have some understanding of the carbon cycle and the greenhouse effect. But in order to understand why deforestation occurs and what can be done to reduce it, students need to understand the economic, cultural, and political forces that encourage deforestation and hinder adequate regulation.

Our B.S. and B.A. degrees

We offer a BA in Environmental Studies; students choose their electives in consultation with an advisor or use the 3 sets of “guided electives” (see Roadmaps), and a BS degree emphasizing Natural Resource Management and Conservation. The BA in Environmental Studies requires 16-18 units of science and research methods (6-8 units of chemistry, 3 units of physical geography or geology, 3 units of biology and 4 units of statistics and research methods), and 20-23 units of social sciences or humanities. Similarly, the BS degrees require a mix of social science and natural science, but with more weight toward natural science.  A B.S. is more appropriate if you plan to go to graduate school for further study in the biological and physical sciences, or if you plan to work in natural resources/wildlife conservation.  On the other hand, a B.A. is good preparation for law school, for work as a sustainability officer in city or state government, or in public education or advocacy at a nonprofit.

Program Learning Objectives

  1. Demonstrate understanding of the relationships between social justice and environmental problems in local, national and global contexts.
  2. Demonstrate understanding of chemical, biological, and social processes related to environmental problems and the ability to intergratewiththe understandings and critical evaluations of descriptive statistics commonly used in environmental literature.
  3. Communicate clearly and accurately both orally and in writing and be able to conduct research appropriate to area of emphasis.
  4. Demonstrate basic understanding of social and political systems and how they change, and demonstrate ability to engage in civic activities and processes, e.g., public comment opportunities offered by agencies.
  5. Demonstrate readiness to enter professional job market by preparing/training students in developing appropriate job market skills (e.g., resume and cover letter writing, interview preparation, writing well and engagingly, acquiring professional experience via internship)