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New environmental and sustainability studies major offered in fall 2019

  • A professor teaches students outside at the Sustainable Agriculture Project at the Grand Valley Allendale Campus.

Posted on February 15, 2019

A new major at Grand Valley will help students learn to develop a solutions-oriented understanding of environmental and sustainability challenges.

The environmental and sustainability studies major, which will be offered through the Brooks College of Interdisciplinary Studies beginning fall 2019, was approved by Grand Valley's Board of Trustees during its February meeting.

Coursework for the ENS major builds upon the framework of the preexisting minor, which was established in 2008. The ENS major will encompass a variety of disciplines, including arts and humanities, physical and life sciences, and economic and policy studies. 

Students will also be able to choose a focus area within the major, such as energy, sustainable food systems, cultural and the built environment, or water resources.

Kelly Parker, director of the environmental and sustainability studies program, said an increase in student interest and demand for professionals with education in the field helped drive the creation of the new major. 

The ENS major will emphasize a practical approach to environmental issues through collaborative problem-solving, involvement in faculty-led research projects, internships and community engagement projects. 

“Grand Valley already has a well-established reputation as a green college,” Parker said. “We have an enormous number of faculty, students and staff who are already doing the work of sustainability and environmental studies. This program gives students a place to plug into all of that.”

Anne Hiskes, dean of Brooks College, said student will gain the education needed to create positive change as leaders, thinkers and citizens through the major's triple bottom line structure: social and cultural, physical and life science, and political and economic.

"The major is cutting edge in terms of its triple bottom line structure across the entire program," Hiskes said. "It connects theory and practice with the scope of interdisciplinary studies."

For more information about the environmental and sustainability studies program, visit