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Environmental and Urban Studies

"Clean Energy 2030: Building a Sustainable Future" Short Video
Three prominent Argonne National Laboratory scientists and a University of Chicago economist discuss the future of clean energy.

Botanist and UChicago professor Henry Cowles founded the science of ecology with his landmark studies of the Lake Michigan dunes.

Today, UChicago’s Environmental and Urban Studies program addresses the complex entanglements of urbanism, environments, and humans. Courses incorporate models and methods from the humanities and social and natural sciences. The program brings together faculty and courses from Anthropology, Biological Sciences, Chemistry, Economics, English, Geographical Studies, Geophysical Sciences, Physics, Political Science, and Public Policy Studies.

The curriculum is organized around required elements that include a thesis and an internship or field studies component. Students have worked at an environmental law firm in New Mexico with a focus on indigenous communities, measured and addressed lead levels in the Englewood neighborhood of Chicago, and advocated on water shortage issues in Mumbai, India. Stipends are available from the Environmental and Urban Studies program for otherwise unpaid summer field experience.

Students can choose between three tracks within the Environmental and Urban Studies program:

  • Environmental Economics and Policy: A concentration that emphasizes issues including environmental law, development, globalization, and policy studies. This track is more inclined towards present-day issues and strategies in political, legal, and economic contexts.
  • Socio-natural Systems and Frameworks Track: A concentration that emphasizes environmental history; landscape studies; human ecology and demography; and environmental ethics, philosophy, and representation. Students can anticipate courses on the historical and cultural constructions of the human and their surrounding world.
  • Urban Environment Track: This track provides students with a deeper understanding of cities by addressing urban and environmental challenges. Students cover issues including sustainable urban planning, the environmental costs and benefits of urbanization, and the growing problem of social segregation in urban neighborhoods. This track’s mission is for students to apply place-based perspective and environmental context as key lenses through which to investigate the social, economic, and political dimensions of urbanism.  

Students have the chance to apply this education first-hand through the Chicago Studies Quarter: Calumet. The quarter features integrated courses, projects, field trips, guest lectures, and presentations, all in an effort to study the culture, politics, and history of the Calumet Region, just south and east of Chicago. Courses are taught by Chicago specialists across a range of disciplines. Chicago Studies Quarter: Calumet is offered every other year. Courses taken as part of this program can be used to satisfy requirements in all three tracks of the major.

Students in other programs may choose to minor in Environmental and Urban Studies.