Explore the science that will enable you to study how ecosystems function and the policy alternatives that will allow you to examine solutions to maintain environmental quality.

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Major Roadmap

Explore your options — classes, internships, research and study abroad. Find what interests you, discover what you love, and create a major experience that jumpstarts your future. 

Environmental Science and Policy Major Guide

Environmental issues such as climate change, water quality and biodiversity loss are significantly affecting the earth and human societies. As an Environmental Science and Policy major, you will study the science underlying environmental problems as well as the policy strategies that will enable you to develop solutions to these problems.  

But you won’t just stay in the classroom. ENSP faculty and students conduct field research at Wild Basin Preserve, the Spicewood Ranch ecolab in the rural Hill Country and in tropical forests in Costa Rica. Apply your research skills to projects like examining the environmental impacts of electric scooters, testing Travis County residents’ water for lead contamination or examining whether paying Costa Rican and Ugandan farmers to not cut down their forests helps reduce deforestation.  

As environmental issues are inherently interdisciplinary, integrating science and policy allows ENSP graduates to acquire the research, analytical and technical skills necessary to acquire positions in a wide range of environmental careers in the public, private and non-profit sectors.  Degree Plan.    ENSP graduates are currently working as environmental scientists at private environmental consulting firms and regulators with the Texas Commission for Environmental Quality and earning acceptance to top environmental graduate programs (See more examples below).  

Austin, a sustainability-oriented city, is the perfect place to study Environmental Science and Policy, providing ENSP majors with a wide range of internship opportunities. ENSP majors intern with state agencies such as Texas Commission for Environmental Quality and environmental organizations such as the Sierra Club, Nature Conservancy and Save Our Springs Alliance.   

What do our graduates do?

Environmental Science and Policy majors go on to a variety of careers and graduate schools from St. Edward’s. Here’s a sample.

Andrea Calderon - Outstanding 2020 ENSP graduate and Fulbright Scholar — has been awarded a prestigious Pickering Fellowship which will fully fund her graduate study and provide with a position at the US State Department. Andrea started a graduate program at Columbia University in Fall 2021 to study Energy and Environmental Management.  

Joe Ferris - '19 Forest Project Coordinator, The Open Reforestation Protocol

Chelsea Gomez - '16 joined Andrea at Columbia University at the School of International and Public Affairs concentrating on Environmental Policy. After graduating, Chelsea spent two years in the Peace Corps in The Gambia as an Environment and Agriculture extension agent and served as a Community Climate Ambassador in Austin. 

Clarissa De Leon - '19 won best undergraduate oral presentation at the 2018 Texas Society for Ecological Restoration Conference

Andi Utter '20 - was awarded a Fulbright Fellowship to teach in Kenya. 

Sarah Morton '18 -  received a MSc from Oxford University in England in Biodiversity Conservation and Management. Prior to entering the program, she spent a year in Taiwan as a Fulbright Fellow.

Colton Mitchell '21 - Groundwater monitoring specialist at the Texas Water Development Board

Hailey Reier '20 and Olivia Rome '20 are program managers for the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ)

Olivia Rome '20 and Yeji Kang '20 won best undergraduate poster presentation at the 2019 Texas Society for Ecological Restoration Conference

Melissa Grocki - '18 - has been an Environmental Health and Safety consultant for  Loureiro Engineering Associates in Plainville, CT since graduating. 

Meagen Wallace - '18 - after conducting research in Costa Rica with the NSF project, Meagen has been working in Washington DC as an environmental scientist for environmental consulting firm AECOM.   

Victoria Edwards ’19 and Grace DeLucia ’19, Environmental Science and Policy majors, are now working as environmental specialists for SWA Environmental Consultants in Austin, Texas.

Small Steps Lead to Big Change

Peter Beck, Professor of Environmental Science and Policy, helps students recognize the connections between environmental health and quality of life.   Hear his views on the importance of sustainability and protecting our natural resources.

The Classroom and Beyond

As an Environmental Science and Policy major, you’ll learn about both the natural world and the world of government and politics. In both settings, you’ll get plenty of hands-on education in the field. You may study and work at Wild Basin Creative Research Center in Austin, the St. Edward’s Ecolab at Spicewood Ranch, the Blunn Creek Nature Preserve next to campus, Waller Creek in downtown Austin, the State Capitol, state parks, and locations overseas.

One of our recent grads, Camila Rojas, just got a paper published from research that she did during a study abroad program with the School for Field Studies, which is focused on sustainability and environmental conservation. Read about her research and life after SEU by clicking HERE.

Environmental Science and Policy students work in the garden
Environmental Science and Policy students
Environmental Science and Policy students

Experiential Education

Your courses will take you all over Central Texas, as you visit parks and preserves and conduct research in the field. Your classes will also feature guest speakers from local environmental organizations, helping you learn about potential career paths and start to build your network.

Introduction to Sustainability is the first course you’ll take in your major. You’ll apply the sustainability concepts you learn to campus projects like planting and maintain the campus garden. You’ll also research sustainability initiatives to pitch to school officials for potential adoption on campus.

Natural Resource Conservation and Management emphasizes the real-world challenges of natural resource conservation and management. You’ll go on 10 outings to parks, preserves and private lands throughout Central Texas to learn about different resource management techniques and meet professionals in the field.

In Chemistry in the Environment, you’ll practice applying chemistry techniques to environmental issues. In a recent semester, students collected water samples from local residents and tested for lead and other contaminants.

In Environmental and Ecological Field Methods, you’ll learn different methods natural and social scientists use to collect data for research. Students in this course recently studied how dockless scooters were affecting traffic and safety in central Austin and whether scooters are helping people drive less. They also measured the diversity of species in Blunn Creek, a preserve next to the St. Edward’s campus, comparing patches of forest that were mostly native trees and patches that had been taken over by invasive species.

Study Abroad

Learning about environmental issues overseas can help you develop perspective on the problems American cities and states are trying to solve. In recent semesters, ENSP faculty have led environmental-themed study abroad programs in France, Costa Rica and South Africa, although this is not an exhaustive list of places you can study abroad. As part of your international education experience, you may conduct research about other countries’ environmental strategies, ecotourism plans, conservation practices and agricultural techniques.

St. Edward’s provides enhanced study abroad opportunities with 20 partner universities across 17 countries and 5 continents. Learn more here.

In the Sustainable Development in Costa Rica source, you’ll take on a community service project; the program includes a study tour of Costa Rica, where you’ll explore issues of sustainable development and ecotourism.

Student Organizations

Students for Sustainability educates the St. Edward’s community about eco-friendly practices and works with the St. Edward’s administration to implement environmental initiatives. Members help maintain the campus garden, organize the campus Earth Day festival and initiate numerous sustainability measures on campus, including composting and reusable plates and silverware in the dining halls, clothing swaps and water-bottle-filling stations throughout campus.

The St. Edward’s Office of Sustainability offers internships and welcomes volunteers who help coordinate Earth Week and maintain the office’s blog.

Research

ENSP majors will work closely with faculty in faculty members to gain research skills and experience both in the laboratory and at our Wild Basin Wilderness Preserve.  Funding is available through the Hook Fellowship for students interested in conducting field research at Wild Basin and other properties in the Balcones Canyonlands Preserve.  Students can also apply for the BSS Research Award to obtain funding to present their research at academic conferences.   This research experience has been influential in enabling graduates to acquire positions with employers and graduate schools.  

Internships

ENSP majors gain valuable practical experience conducting internships with in the public, private and non-private sectors.  ENSP majors have interned with state and federal legislators, state agencies such as Texas Commission for Environmental Quality, environmental organizations such as the Sierra Club, Nature Conservancy and Save Our Springs Alliance and private companies such as Freedom Solar and Wildlife Management Services.   

Degree Plan

Major Requirements: The Bachelor of Science in Environmental Science and Policy requires 57 hours of major courses, which include a combination of environmental science and policy, political science, biology, chemistry and economics. In addition to the required courses, each student will concentrate in a science or policy field by selecting 9 additional hours in one of the above listed natural or social science disciplines.

View Degree Plan HERE

Electives: Students complete 15 hours of elective courses in any area of study they choose. These courses do not have to relate to the major.

General Education Requirements: The degree requires 48 hours of general education courses that students complete over four years in addition to their major courses and electives.

A few examples of courses students in this major take:             

  • Climate Change – explores the issue of global climate change through an interdisciplinary lens, covering the science, impacts on the environment and human populations, and management and policy responses 
  • Chemistry in the Environment - students learn about how nutrients and toxic chemicals move through the environment and what we can do to reduce their impacts, and participate in a hands-on service-learning project testing lead in tap water of at-risk homes in Travis County
  • Environmental Politics and Policy – examines the political process through which environmental decisions are made and the different regulatory and market-based policy alternatives for achieving environmental goals.  
  • Research Experience in Environmental Science and Policy – students train in research methods and design and conduct a guided research project on an environmental topic of their choosing. 

Our Faculty

"I teach environmental science and policy because it gives me the opportunity to work with students who are passionate about making their world a better place.  Austin is an ideal location for this as its vibrant environmental community offers numerous opportunities to apply these lessons to examine issues affecting our campus and community." 

– Peter Beck, Professor and Coordinator of Environmental Science and Policy

"I employ a diversity of research methods, including ecological field trials, greenhouse experiments, stakeholder interviews, and policy analysis to measure impacts of global change on plant communities and ecosystems and to test the effectiveness and feasibility of land management approaches. Through outreach activities and close collaboration with researchers and practitioners from a range of different backgrounds, I work to translate my scientific results to conservation action."

Amy Concilio, Associate Professor of Environmental Science and Policy

Gary A. Morris

"I teach because I love learning.  The day I stop learning is the day I stop teaching. I’m passionate about my research projects on the environment, air quality, climate change, and physics education research and work to make sure that they are accessible to undergraduates.  Engaging in such hands-on research projects is a demonstratively effective way for students to learn and graduate with a degree in their chosen field.” 

- Gary A. Morris, Professor of Environmental Science and Physics

The research interests of Dr. Peter Beck, Environmental Science and Policy Coordinator, involve examining policies that seek to integrate environmental and development goals internationally and campus sustainability in the United States.   He has conducted research in Kenya, Uganda and Costa Rica and currently has a $300,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to study the effectiveness of different conservation incentives at conserving tropical forests.  Through this grant, ENSP students have the opportunity to spend three months conducting field research in Costa Rica, Panama and Uganda.   Dr. Beck also has developed international field courses for St. Edward’s students in Costa Rica, Chile, South Africa and France.  Read more about Dr. Beck's Costa Rica research HERE. Dr. Peter Beck was awarded a $300,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to fund student research in Costa Ric

Dr. Amy Concilio is an ecologist with research interests in global environmental change, invasive species biology and management, and ecosystem restoration. She has worked on research throughout the US west exploring the impacts of climate change on shrubland and grassland ecosystems, and approaches to restoration and land management in an era of global change. Current projects include evaluating the effectiveness of a restoration effort at an urban park from both social and ecological perspectives, studying the response of the plant community and ecosystem function to extreme drought in Texas grasslands, and investigating land management approaches that increase carbon sequestration in forests and grasslands of the Texas Hill Country. Dr. Concilio welcomes student participation in her field research and has advised ENSP students on their Honors Thesis research, McNair research, and ENSP culminating research experience.

Dr. Gary A. Morris earned a Ph.D. in Space Physics and Astronomy from Rice University (1992, 1995) before serving as a National Research Council Post-Doctoral Fellow at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in suburban Washington, DC (1994–97).  In 2004 he established the Tropospheric Ozone Pollution Project (TOPP) which flies weather balloons to measure ozone pollution and meteorological data.  TOPP has engaged more than 150 students (mostly undergraduate), produced the largest urban ozonesonde database in the U.S. for Houston, and flown from more than a dozen sites in the USA (including, presently in Austin, San Antonio, El Paso, and Galveston, Texas) in addition to international sites in Panama, Costa Rica, and Japan.  His Fulbright Scholar Project in Japan during 2008 - 2009 examined the influence of Chinese pollution on air quality in Japan before, during, and after the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games. Most recently, he has co-developed a new technology for inexpensive measurements of SO2 on a balloon sonde (patent pending).  Dr. Morris currently serves on the Assessment of Standard Operating Procedures for Ozonesondes Panel, commissioned by the World Meteorological Organization of the United Nations to update protocols and recommendations for preparing, calibrating, and flying ozonesonde instruments on balloons.  He is also interested in the way students learn physics, collaborating with Harvard physicist Eric Mazur on two publications and implementing Dr. Mazur’s project based introductory physics approach in the classrooms of St. Edward’s in collaboration with Dr. Paul Walter (NSCI, physics).

Student and Faculty Awards

ENSP faculty member Peter Beck was awarded a $300,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to fund student research in Costa Ric

Congratulations to ENSP faculty member Amy Concilio for receiving the SEU Distinguished Teaching Award for 2020!

Olivia Rome ’20, Yeji Kang ’20 and Jack Rippel ’20 received prizes for their research at the Texas Society for Ecological Restoration Conference.

Andi Utter '20 - Fulbright Scholar

Andrea Calderon - '19 - Pickering Fellowship, Doris Duke Conservation Scholar, Princeton Public Policy and International Affairs Fellow; Fulbright Scholar

Sarah Morton '18 - Fulbright Scholar

About the Minor

Whether you are interested in environmental consulting, research management, or simply adding an environmental perspective to your prospective field of interest, a minor in Environmental Science and Policy can help you prepare for a more sustainably mindful career.

Required Coursework:
  • Introduction to Sustainability
  • Environmental Science
  • Environmental Politics and Policy
  • Two other upper-division ENSP courses
  • One additional ENSP elective