Institute at Brown for Environment and Society

Undergraduate Curriculum


Environmental Sciences & Studies:  A.B. 12-13 courses / Sc.B. 17-18 courses


In mid February IBES Faculty voted to remove the "Methods" requirement for Environmental Sciences & Studies concentrators.  The Brown Curriculum Committee supported this decision and the change has been made, effective immediately.  For those juniors and seniors who already took ENVS 1920 Methods for Interdisciplinary Environmental Research, you can reallocate the course on your ASK form to count towards fulfilling either a pending "Tools" or "Elective" requirement.  If you previously received an INC or NC for ENVS 1920 you don't need to resolve the grade, and can simply delete the course from your ASK form.  


Students must fill out and submit a ENVS Requirement Substitution Request Form for anything outside of what is listed on our curriculum guide.  All such requests, including study abroad courses, must be approved by the IBES Curriculum Committee.

Requirements AB Degree

CORE REQUIREMENTS (2 Courses total)    
TOOLS - 1 credit    
Courses focused on building qualitative or quantitative research tools
Foundations in Earth Sciences and Technology - 1 credit  
Courses focusing on earth, atmospheric, engineering or water sciences.
Ecology/Biological Sciences - 1 credit  
Courses focused on ecological or conservation biology
Environmental Justice and Equity - 1 credit  
Courses focused on environmental issues through a justice and/or equity lens
Environmental Policy and Politics - 1 credit  
Courses focused on the policy, politics and/or governance of environmental issues.
Environmental History and Humanities - 1 credit  
Courses focused on the role of history, culture, and the arts in the environment
Electives provide increased environmental expertise and further enhance a student’s ability to customize a course of study. Acceptable electives include any ENVS courses, a class that's main focus is on the environment, and prerequisites for classes students take to fulfill requirements within their declared track.
CAPSTONE REQUIREMENT - Must be fulfilled during concentrators 7th or 8th semester  
Capstone course or independent research project = 1 credit / 2 semester thesis = 2 credits
The College expects that a capstone will be completed in semesters 7 or 8 - with the intention of providing an opportunity for students to integrate many aspects of their course of study, or area of focus. This requirement can be met with a two-semester thesis (ENVS 1970 & ENVS 1971), one-semester research project (ENVS 1970 or ENVS 1971), or an approved capstone course.
Total Course Credits AB Degree: 12-13

Requirements ScB Degree

Students may pursue an ScB degree by fulfilling all AB requirements, plus choosing an additional 5 courses from one of the track options below.  This will result in the accumulation of 5 more course credits, resulting in an overall total of 17-18.

  1. Climate and Energy (CLE)
  2. Conservation Science and Natural Systems (CSN)
  3. Environmental Justice and Health (EJH)
  4. Sustainable Development and Governance (SDG)         
Track 1 - Climate and Energy (CLE)    
This track is intended for students interested in climate change science, energy systems, and energy/climate change policy.
Foundations - Pick 2  
These courses serve as a foundation to understanding energy, climate systems, and data analysis. Students can use a prereq course as an ENVS elective.
Energy and Environmental Tech and Infrastructure - Pick 1  
Climate - Pick 1  
Energy and Climate Policy - Pick 1  
Conservation Science and Natural Systems (CSN)    
This track is intended for students interested in ecological and conservation sciences.
Most students with an intention of going to grad school in this field will also need: At least one semester of calculus and a statistics course
Ecology - 1 Option  
Conservation - 1 Option  
Organismal Diversity, Ecology and Conservation Topics - Pick 2  
Politics and History of Natural Systems - Pick 1  
Environmental Justice and Health (EJH)    
This track is intended for students interested in exploring environmental issues through a justice/equity lens
Race, Class, Gender Inequality - Pick 1  
Any class focused on race, class, or gender - these courses do not have an environmental theme. Many AFRI, ETHN, and GNSS classes count with IBES Curriculum Committee approval.
Environmental Justice and Equity - Pick 2  
These courses focus on environmental issues through a justice and/or equity lens
Foundations in Health and Inequality - Pick 1  
These courses offer a foundation or an additional tool to study environmental health and inequality
Environmental Health - Pick 1  
These courses focus specifically on public health and the environment.
Sustainable Development and Governance (SDG)    
This track is intended for students interested in the interplay between environmental governance and economics on the global stage, with an emphasis on the non-Western world.
Global Governance and Development - Pick 1  
Courses focused on global governance or development (some are non environmental).
Environment, Justice, and Non-Western Perspectives - Pick 2  
Any class focused on the Environment and the Global South and/or other non-Western perspectives.
Economic Perspectives - Pick 1  
These courses are intermediate-level economic tools courses
Finance and Economic Perspectives - Pick 1  
These courses are either intermediate-level economic tools courses, courses focused on sustainable investing and finance, or the social science of economics systems



AP Exams and Course Credit

Students can meet listed core or track requirements, as follows:

  • AP exam score of 5 in Environmental Science in place of ENVS 0490

Independent Study Courses

ENVS 1970 (Fall) and 1971 (Spring) are independent study courses designated for academic credit sponsored by IBES Faculty. One or both of these courses are often taken as part of the process of fulfilling the capstone requirement, but they need not be used exclusively for that purpose. Students taking these courses to meet capstone requirements should follow the process described for Capstones.

Students not taking these courses to meet the ENVS capstone requirement should complete the following steps:

  1. Meet with the faculty sponsor and agree on the project's design and scope
  2. Complete the Project Proposal Form
  3. Register for the course after receiving an override code from the faculty sponsor

It is the joint responsibility of the student-faculty pair to ensure that the student is intellectually involved in an original research project or course of study with expectations appropriate to their level of education and experience. Faculty should agree to be an independent study course sponsor if able to provide adequate mentoring and advising throughout the semester. ENVS 1970 and 1971 are formal courses, so students are expected to work a minimum of 180 hours on the project.