about the curriculum
origins and philosophy
The EES undegraduate curriculum
In 2006, we made some significant changes to our curriculum:
- we greatly increased the number of introductory-level courses (all of which can be paired with a one-credit lab course or one-credit discussion course to meet science distribution requirements), and we changed the format and aim of these courses;
- we blended our previous three B.S. degrees into a single B.S. in Earth and Environmental Sciences (our B.A. and minor remained essentially the same).
We made these changes to provide students with better access to relevant and topical material in ecology, geology, and environmental science. At the introductory level, we felt that smaller classes aimed at more focused topics would provide non-majors with better science education and would provide our prospective majors a more interesting sampling of what our fields are about. For students interested in the professional B.S. degree, we felt that a unified degree would best emphasize the full breadth of Earth-systems science and would be the best way to prepare students for careers in the field - students can still lean towards whatever area most interests them (e.g., geology or environment or ecology) while gaining an understanding of how all these fields relate to one another.
Below, we summarize these changes and provide some advice for prospective and current students (and their advisors!). If you have any questions, please contact the EES office, or any EES faculty member.
Our introductory-level courses cover interesting topics within ecology, geology, and environmental sciences. These courses, and our traditional survey courses in environmental biology (EES 31) and geology (EES 21), are offered as smaller classes usually capped at about 40 students, allowing for more discussion and flexiblity. To ensure wide access to our courses, we continue to offer EES 002 (Environmental Science) and EES 11 (Environmental Geology) as open, uncapped courses, and we also offer College Seminars on a regular basis. All of these courses are offered for three (3) credits, and have Natural Science (NS) designation.
In parallel with these offerings, we offer a one-credit laboratory course (EES 22) and a one-credit discussion course (EES 004) in both spring and fall semesters, with numerous sections. Note that both these courses have an introductory-level offering as either a pre-requisite or a co-requisite.
This arrangement provides students with smaller classes and greater variety. CAS students, can meet College distribution requirements in science by taking any introductory-level course and pairing it with the lab and/or the discussion course as required. This permits students to meet the 8-credit requirement with flexibility and ease. Note that the standalone lab fulfills the CAS lab-science requirement. CBE students facing a distribution requirement of three credits simply need to take any intro-level course in EES (we'd also recommend the lab or discussion course, but it's up to the student).
Note that once students have taken an introductory course, they've taken the first step towards being a major, if that's a possible interest, and these gateway courses count towards our minor as well.
Important things to remember are (1) that most of these courses will be capped to provide a better classroom experience (so early registration is advisable), and (2) the lab and discussion course each require a gateway course as a pre-requisite or co-requisite (we'd recommended doing them as co-reqs).
To offer the best possible program and prepare students for the job market, now and in the future, our B.S. degree in EES has a strong foundation in Earth-systems science. Students can then build directly on this, or choose major electives that lean towards any of our main areas of expertise in ecology, geology, and environmental science. The core sequence (EES 80 and 200) gives all our majors common ground. More information about this major can be found here.
We emphasize that this BS allows considerable latitude in how students choose to focus their training. So whether they're eco or geo or swing both ways (or neither), they can follow their noses, knowing that their degree is based on a strong, broad core that will best position them for the future. In any case, students should discuss their career goals with their advisor to see what particular EES courses or collateral sciences make most sense for them.
A sound training in Earth-systems science is an excellent base from which to pursue careers in business, government, politics, and policy. The B.A. is a great degree for students feeling entrepreneurial, who might want to help with some of the big problems facing society in environmental quality, or energy, or resource depletion. Recognizing that work in these areas usually requires expertise across disciplines, we offer a flexible and accessible B.A degree that is easily paired with study in other programs, majors, or minors. Plus, students can also choose to add additional EES courses to the basic B.A. to build a extended degree of their own design (note that a number of faculty in EES hold B.A. degrees of that nature). More information about this major can be found here.