Environmental Studies

Environmental Studies

Do you enjoy exploring the outdoors? Are you concerned about issues of social justice and sustainability? If so, you may be on your way to an environmental studies degree.

At Central, environmental studies majors choose from two tracks: environmental science or environmental sustainability. Both tracks include fundamentals of science, economics and politics, plus hands-on laboratory and fieldwork.

Graduates of Central’s program have gone on to careers in the lab, in the field and in management for federal and state agencies, as well as industry and non-profit agencies.

of Central students take a sustainability course as part of their core classes
  • Central offers the first environmental studies major in Iowa
  • Environmental studies majors learn to use GIS, the decision support software used by most natural resource managers and businesses

The Real World


Successful Careers

  • Ted Dirkx ’11, recycling and forestry equipment specialist, Vermeer Corp., Pella
  • Jennifer Daugherty ’11, local foods coordinator, Iowa State University Extension and Outreach, Iowa City
  • Ryan Schmidt ’12, land stewardship director, Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation, Des Moines
  • Andrew Jackson ’15, conservation laborer, Polk County Conservation, Des Moines
  • Owen Shawgo ’17, GIS technician, JCG Land Services, Leon, Iowa
  • Tyron Steere ’16, natural resource manager, Floyd County Conservation, Charles City, Iowa


  • Bio-Chem Club
  • SCATE (Students Concerned About the Environment)
Central College student

Graduate Placement

  • Sustainable agriculture, Iowa State University
  • Environmental science, The Ohio State University
  • Fishery biology, Southern Illinois University
  • Sustainable food systems, University of Montana
  • Urban and regional planning , University of Iowa
  • Conservation biology, Antioch University, New Hampshire
  • M.S. natural resources, University of Idaho McCall Outdoor Science School


  • U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Lake Red Rock
  • Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation
  • Iowa Department of Natural Resources
  • Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge
  • Vermeer Manufacturing

Courses & Faculty

The environmental studies major consists of a strong background in the sciences, social sciences and an emphasis on developing good research and communication skills. Students in the program examine the interrelationships of science, society and nature in a world with limited resources. Every environmental studies major also proposes and completes a senior project, gaining experience in grant writing and project management along the way.

Students also gain experience with GIS, the decision support software used by most natural resource managers and businesses.

Learn more about Environmental Studies in the course catalog.

Meet the faculty:

Russ Benedict, B.A., M.A., Ph.D. Professor of Biology, interest areas include: interest areas include prairie ecology and restoration, conservation biology, natural history and Mammalogy

Anya Butt, B.A., M.S., Ph.D. Professor of Biology, interest areas include: geospatial technologies and applications, water resources, geosciences, natural disaster resilience and global health

Paul Weihe, B.S., M.S., Ph.D. Associate Professor of Biology, interest areas include: wetland ecosystems, ethnobotany, ecology and environmental science

Amy Young, B.A., M.A., Ph.D. Associate Professor of German, interest areas include: 20th century German and Austrian literature and culture, women's and gender studies, sustainability and translation

Jim Zaffiro, B.A., M.A., Ph.D. Professor of Political Science, interest areas include: international relations, African studies and global sustainability

Learn More

Want to find out more about Environmental Studies at Central? Contact us to learn more about this major and our other strong academic programs. Visit campus to observe classes and experience The Central Difference firsthand.