Sarah Geegan


College: Arts and Sciences

A&S Offers New Major: BA in Environmental and Sustainability Studies

Published: Jan 30, 2013

LEXINGTON, Ky. (Jan. 30, 2013) The University of Kentucky's degree offerings are getting a little greener next fall.


A new major, environmental and sustainability studies, offered by the College of Arts and Sciences, will provide a Bachelor of Arts option for students interested in pursuing a major in environmental studies. The curriculum will provide a deep understanding of the humanities and social science aspects of environmental and sustainability issues.


The degree is designed to provide students with a foundation in the natural and physical sciences without the math and science courses typically required by environmental B.S. degrees; students will graduate with a holistic understanding of the economic, environmental and social components of sustainability. UK chemistry Professor David Atwood has led the charge to create, promote and establish this new major.


"The new ENS B.A. will accommodate student interests and demand for environmental programs," Atwood said.  "It will provide a needed increase in the state’s environmental degree possibilities, particularly in the area of sustainability."


Student interest in environmental studies degree programs has dramatically increased over the past decade. In 2008, a total of 3,299 students graduated in the U.S. with a bachelor’s degree in environmental studies, an increase of 18 percent compared to 2004.


Accordingly, environment-related occupations are expected to experience tremendous growth over the next decade in areas such as clean energy, energy efficiency, environmentally friendly production, conservation and pollution mitigation.


Occupations in “clean businesses” and “clean jobs” increased by 9.1 percent from 1998-2007, and this industry is expected to grow at the same level in the near future.


At UK, the first course required by the ENS Minor, ENS 200: Introduction to Environmental Studies, has been near peak enrollment since 2007, and it exceeded the enrollment limit in 2012. Starting in fall 2013 this course will be replaced by ENS 201, the first required course for the ENS B.A. major.


Atwood said that over the past two years, he has received more than 40 emails asking about the ENS B.A., including many from parents of high school students making decisions about which university to attend.


"Many students say that the availability of sustainability-oriented degrees is the top reason they would select one university over another," Atwood said. "The expectation is that the ENS B.A. will attract new students to the university that are likely to double-major with ENS and other departmental degrees. In fact, recruiting new students, rather than students already at UK, is one of the primary goals of the ENS Program."


The interdisciplinary nature of the ENS B.A. allows it to couple nicely with other, more discipline-specific majors such as anthropology, economics, English, geography, philosophy, and sociology. Atwood said the degree could also provide B.S. students in biology, chemistry, earth and environmental sciences and engineering with an understanding of the humanities and social science components of sustainability.


The ENS Program will collaborate and advertise with other UK environmental programs to prepare a “Guide to UK Environmental Programs” so that incoming students can more easily select the program that best suits their interests and career aspirations. The ENS Program has already begun planning with the Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences program (NRES) in the UK College of Agriculture, and sustainabile agriculture programs for collaborative advertising, coursework development, invited speakers and other activities.


"The ENS B.A. degree will provide UK graduates the ability to pursue meaningful careers in the growing number of environmental occupations and bring valuable knowledge and insight to jobs that would not ordinarily be classified as 'environmental,'" Atwood said. "The ENS Program will be an important component of the College of Arts and Sciences goal, embodied in the Envision 2020 initiative. Characteristics of this initiative include: innovative preparation for life and career, multidisciplinary scholarly research, connectivity with the world and substantive community involvement."


Click here to visit the new ENS website. 



MEDIA CONTACT: Sarah Geegan, (859) 257-5365;



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