Feb 08, 2023  
Academic Catalog 2021-2022 
Academic Catalog 2021-2022 [ARCHIVED CATALOG]

Environmental Studies

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Environmental Studies


The Environmental Studies Department (www.pacificu.edu/as/enviro/) in the College of Arts and Sciences provides students with an education that takes full advantage of Pacific University’s liberal arts curriculum. In this program, students and faculty have opportunities to pursue interests that span a wide range of disciplines. In addition to the two full-time faculty members in the department, Environmental Studies offers the expertise of faculty affiliated with the program who are based in the disciplines of biology, chemistry, political science, economics, history, art, sociology, anthropology, philosophy and literature. This results in a wide range of opportunities to investigate environmental problems that cross traditional boundaries.

Students in Environmental Studies can choose to apply their knowledge through research opportunities in unique nearby surroundings such as the coniferous forest of the John Blodgett Arboretum, the riparian corridors of the Gales Creek and Tualatin River watersheds, and the 750-acre Fernhill Wetlands. The B Street Permaculture Project (a 15-minute walk from campus) is a learning laboratory for sustainability that directly addresses the human component of environmental problem solving. Regionally, there are many exemplary resources available within a one- to two-hour drive of campus such as the Willamette and Columbia Rivers, Tillamook and Willapa Bays, and the forests of the Coast and Cascade Ranges. The proximity of Pacific University to study sites both wild and human-influenced is one of the main strengths of the Environmental Studies program.

The Environmental Studies curriculum includes majors that lead to a Bachelor of Science (BS) or a Bachelor of Arts (BA) degree. Students pursuing a BS in Environmental Science can choose either a Biology or an Environmental Toxicology & Chemistry emphasis. Students pursuing a BA in Environmental Studies can choose to major in either Policy, Culture & Society (PCS) or in Applied Sustainability. Students in all tracks will gain knowledge about how ecological and physical earth systems work, how these systems are being affected by human activities, and how we can alter these patterns to produce more desirable outcomes. Students will learn to appreciate the services provided by natural systems and will understand how our social, economic, political, and legal systems are rapidly increasing stratification locally, regionally and globally. Students will develop the ability to think systematically and will “solve for pattern” by understanding the cause and effect of environmental and social relationships, and how initiatives to solve problems in one area will affect conditions in the other.

The Department of Environmental Studies is an interdisciplinary community of active scholars in the arts, humanities and natural and social sciences. We are dedicated to helping students and community members form a broad holistic understanding of the relationships between human and natural systems and give them the skills they need to identify and address the problems that exist within those relationships. This understanding is built on a foundation of valid, contextual knowledge informed by disciplinary study and experiential learning practices. Through faculty guidance and peer interaction, students gain an appreciation for the complexity of relationships between human, social and economic systems and natural ecosystems. Students in our program will learn to creatively apply both quantitative and qualitative methods to the complex environmental and social problems we currently face. Our innovative program produces broadly educated, highly skilled graduates who will become active and responsible citizens in the world community.

By successfully completing a major within Environmental Studies, students will be able to:

  • Demonstrate conceptual understanding of fundamental environmental principles.
  • Communicate effectively in the discipline in oral and in written form.
  • Think critically and synthesize information from a variety of different sources.
  • Consider social, political, economic and cultural views when dealing with environmental problem solving.
  • Conduct independent research or work successfully in a technical position.

Bachelor of Science in Environmental Science: Biology or Toxicology & Chemistry Emphasis

The Environmental Biology emphasis focuses on field and laboratory approaches to environmental problems such as the conservation of rare or declining species or the restoration of degraded habitats. Environmental Biology stands apart from a traditional biology degree in the way that it integrates interdisciplinary core courses with a mission-oriented, problem-solving methodology. Students completing this major have the analytical skills and technical background necessary to compete in the job market for environmental biology positions or to continue with advanced studies in a graduate program.

The Environmental Toxicology & Chemistry emphasis offers students an integrated interdisciplinary science curriculum and a disciplinary approach towards understanding the complex interactions of xenobiotics (drugs, toxins, and natural compounds) in the biosphere, including humans. This challenging curriculum is designed for students interested in careers in pharmacy, toxicology, and environmental chemistry (disciplines that overlap with each other) and to make students highly competitive for graduate programs in these areas. Faculty in the School of Natural Sciences and the School of Pharmacy teach discipline-specific courses in the curriculum.

Students in this program are required to successfully design and complete independent scientific research projects, where they work with faculty in Pacific University’s School of Natural Sciences and School of Pharmacy. In addition students are required to take discipline- specific courses that cover important concepts in pharmacology, toxicology and environmental chemistry (i.e. drug metabolism, dose response curves, chemical behavior in environmental compartments, target organ toxicity).

Program Learning Outcomes

A student completing a major in Environmental Biology shall demonstrate the ability to:

  • Apply the scientific method and quantitative techniques to describe, monitor and understand environmental systems.
  • Use interdisciplinary approaches such as ecology, economics, ethics and policy to devise solutions to environmental problems.
  • Be proficient in ecological field methods such as wildlife survey, biodiversity assessment, mathematical modeling and monitoring of ecological systems.
  • Use technology, such as geographical information systems and computer programming, to assist in problem solving.
  • Effectively understand and convey scientific material from peer-reviewed sources.

A student completing a major in Environmental Chemistry and Toxicology shall demonstrate the ability to:

  • Acquire broad knowledge of the field of environmental toxicology and chemistry including basic principles, target organ toxicity and the toxicity of a select group of chemical compounds.
  • Synthesize and apply concepts from multiple sub-disciplines in environmental chemistry and toxicology.
  • Use technical and analytical skills to quantify the level and effects of xenobiotics in environmental compartments (air, water, soil, biota).
  • Understand relationships between chemical/drug exposure and effects on physiological systems and design strategies for study of dose-response relationships.
  • Effectively understand and convey scientific material from peer-reviewed sources.
  • Have developed good scientific communication, including writing, oral communication and presentation skills.
  • Conduct an individual research project within the university or other appropriate setting.

Bachelor of Arts in Environmental Studies: Applied Sustainability or Policy, Culture & Society

Environmental Studies: Applied Sustainability

Applied Sustainability is a broadly applicable problem-solving process that seeks to create whole systems solutions to environmental and social problems. Its hallmark is an inclusive, interdisciplinary, and collaborative approach that brings multiple perspectives together to make shared decisions. Building on a foundation of ecoliteracy and systems thinking, students in the Applied Sustainability major will learn to apply design principles derived from a scientific understanding of how ecosystems operate to real-world problems though experiential engagement and practice. Focus is on developing an ethic of service and leadership, creative and collaborative attitudes and behaviors, excellent verbal and visual communications skills, effective problem-solving skills, and an expressive individual design voice.

Careers for majors in Applied Sustainability cover a wide range of occupations, including urban planning, product design, landscape architecture, agriculture, building design, and renewable energy.

Program Learning Outcomes

A student completing a major in Applied Sustainability shall demonstrate the ability to:

  • Combine an understanding of ecology and permaculture with study of the social sciences and the humanities.
  • Convey literacy in the ecological, social and economic concepts on which the concept of sustainability is based.
  • Explain systems thinking and apply a systems approach to relationships between social, economic, and ecological systems.
  • Be skilled in leadership, collaboration, problem-solving and self-expression.
  • Present their designs and results of analysis in a professional manner.

Environmental Studies: Policy, Culture, and Society (PCS)

Environmental Studies in Policy, Culture and Society offers students an interdisciplinary curriculum and a disciplinary approach towards understanding complexities of the human relationship to the environment. These are not merely scientific matters; they are also political, social and cultural problems, grounded in the ways in which human beings perceive nature and their own relationship to it. This major provides students with the background and understandings appropriate for civic engagement in numerous directions, including law and public service. The major prepares students to address environmental issues by requiring an interdisciplinary core of courses in the humanities, social sciences and natural sciences, with advanced study in a disciplinary concentration in economics, history, philosophy or politics and government.

Students in this major will write a thesis in their area of concentration. Students who wish to pursue this major should see the chair of the program for initial advising. Once a concentration is declared, student advising will move to a faculty member in the area of concentration.

Program Learning Outcomes

A student completing a major in Policy, Culture and Society will:

  • Develop a basic scientific understanding of environmental issues through the program’s core electives.
  • Understand environmental issues from multiple disciplinary vantage points.
  • Master methodology and knowledge through intensive upper-division course work in one social science or humanities discipline
  • Be able to apply disciplinary knowledge and methods towards a critical environmental issue.
  • Learn to reason and write clearly.


    Bachelor of ArtsBachelor of ScienceMinor



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