Environmental studies major

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Do you like to be outside, understanding plant life or exploring animal habitats? Are you concerned about issues of social justice, issues of sustainability or earth’s limited resources? Are you interested in managing and making decisions about resources, using cutting edge software and technology such as Geographic Information Systems (GIS)? You are on your way to becoming a great environmental studies major at Central College. Environmental studies examines the interrelationship of science, society and nature in a world with its increasing population seeking to share earth’s limited resources. Sustaining our limited resources in an equitable manner is a priority for our continued well being both socially as well as environmentally. Properly addressing environmental problems requires the ability to not only analyze these complex systems but explore solutions within the socio-cultural, economic and political factors influencing the decision-making process. Central College allows students to gain an understanding of global and local environmental issues with a focus on applied solutions.
Students in the environmental studies program choose from one of two tracks: environmental science or environmental sustainability, with students in both tracks receiving essential basics in science, economics and politics. An integral part of the program includes hands-on laboratory and fieldwork, research and communication. The strength of the program also rests in having students gain experience with GIS, a technology skill that transfers well to many disciplines. Graduates have gone on to work in the lab, in the field and in management working for federal and state agencies, as well as the industry and non-profit agencies.

Students can also minor in global sustainability, which allows them to acquire and apply heightened knowledge and awareness of significant intergenerational issues, problems and solutions on a global scale.



News about Environmental studies

It’s Off to Work We Go

With internship opportunities in Chicago and Washington, D.C., Central students can venture off campus for real-life job opportunities—and they gain more than work experience in the process.

Building for a Better Future

Seniors Ryan McPherren and Ryan Dusil are heading up a project that is turning an unused, wooded area at Lake Red Rock into a place where children can discover the natural world.


Central environmental project receives $30,000 grant

Central College is helping build a natural playscape with the help of a $30,000 3Mgives Eco Grant.


Aiming for the Sky

Bobby '13 and Michael '15 Daigle are football-playing brothers from Colorado that came to Central and found that only the sky is the limit.

Water, Water Everywhere

Students in the Epidemiology course only had a few drops to drink and use as they carried 3-gallon jugs of water everywhere they went for a week—spreading awareness of water inequality and waste.


Successful Careers


Central College environmental studies majors actively seek out and engage in internships. These experiences provide students with a proven track record in a professional environment, helping gain employment or entrance into graduate school. In today’s competitive job market, such experience is a priceless commodity. The program maintains a bulletin board and a website listing opportunities. Our students successfully have been engaged in a number of internships:

Learn more about internships at Central.


The major consists of a strong background in the sciences, social sciences and an emphasis on developing good research and communication skills.

Core courses

Elective courses


In fall 2003, the Vermeer Science Center underwent a major renovation and expansion. The $20-million project added 40,000 square meters to the original 3,000. Central was awarded a silver Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) medal rating from the United States Green Building Council (USGBC), making the science center the first LEED-rated building in the state and the first LEED rated science building in the nation, making Central a leader in environmental design. 

Vermeer Science Center houses the biology, chemistry, physics and natural science departments, as well as the mathematics and computer science. A touchscreen kiosk in the entry provides access to the building directory, searchable by room or professor’s name. The building contains 13 high-tech classrooms, each containing a ceiling-mounted projector, computer console, Wolfvision document camera, combination VCR/DVD player and a Ken-a-vision flex camera, allowing professors the full range of bringing audio visual teaching techniques into the classroom. The center also includes a fully equipped GIS laboratory, as well as several computer labs open to students for daily use. Numerous science laboratories with state-of-the-art science equipment allow students to conduct their own research.

Central’s 62-acre nature preserve Carlson-Kuyper Field Station serves as our “outdoor laboratory,” allowing students to utilize the field station for labs as well as allowing students hands-on management experience in restoring a prairie. Located about 12 miles from the Pella campus, it is adjacent to the extensive wildlife areas managed by the Corps of Engineers around Lake Red Rock, Iowa’s largest lake.  It is also the site of Central’s Biomass Prairie project, engaging students in research and demonstration on how to promote prairies while working within the strengths of Iowa’s economy to help address the larger global issue of global warming. 


No matter what your interests are, Central College has a student group that you’ll want to join! Central College has over 45 recognized student organizations, with new ones forming as student demands arise. Environmental studies majors might be interested in joining Central’s Bio-chem Club or SCATE (Students concerned about the environment). In addition, Central’s SUSTAIN group is an association composed of students, faculty and staff, working together to make Central College a more sustainable campus through hands-on projects. In recent years, students have worked to promote trayless dining at Central, increase recycling efforts and investigate the feasibility of installing kinetic tiles on campus as a potential energy source.

Study Abroad

Students are encouraged to study abroad with Central College to enhance their development as global citizens. Academic opportunities and internship programs also are available in Chicago, Washington, D.C., and New York City. Learn more about Central’s study abroad programs.

Central College Sustainability Efforts

Central College is a place that “walks the walk,” putting into action environmental initiatives. Starting fall 2010, all students entering Central College will be taking a sustainability course as part of their core requirement. Central College is a member of AASHE, the Upper Midwest Association for Campus Sustainability (UMACS) and a signatory to the Talloires Declaration. Central College has been a leader in environmental design since 2003 and has pledged to go carbon neutral. Learn more about Central's sustainability efforts.


The applied focus of Central College’s environmental studies program results in students being actively involved in research projects. Some students opt to engage in summer research while others complete independent senior honors projects or become involved in research professors are engaged in.   Often, students successfully present the results of their research at regional and national conferences, such as the Iowa Academy of Science, the Ecological Society of America, the American Society of Mammalogists and the Association of American Geographers.  In the environmental studies seminars, majors propose an applied project which they will focus on completing their senior year. 

Recent seminar projects:

 Recent honors research projects: