As you know from our major requirements, all prospective ENVS majors and minors will propose a concentration (if single major) or area of interest (if you have a second major or plan to minor in ENVS). Concentrations and areas of interest are similar in many respects, except that areas of interest don’t include 16 credits of concentration courses…your second major effectively satisfies this requirement. Below, we’ll just use the term “concentration,” though conceptually this also includes areas of interest.
The concentration represents your special interests and expertise in environmental studies. You will develop a concentration in during ENVS 220, typically fall of your sophomore year. We realize that many of you are just starting your ENVS journey at this time! Think of your concentration as a theme you’ll explore for the next three years, culminating in your senior capstone…your aim is to be an expert by then. Indeed, you’ll typically revise your concentrations during ENVS 330, as you gain expertise. Here are some key features:
- Your concentration theme will not be as specific as a situated project, though it will be far more specific than all things ENVS. If you look at the ENVS topics glossary you’ll find roughly 80 items total, with a recommendation to mix topics from different categories (six total). Your concentration theme will typically mix 2-4 of these topics in an interdisciplinary manner.
- The way you explore this topic reflects a situated approach. You may or may not be committed to a particular situated geographical context when you propose your concentration, but you’ll explore a variety of situated contexts as a part of the process.
- As with all scholarly inquiry, your concentration boils down to asking and answering questions. Your questions will be motivated by your theme of interest, and your answers will come via the courses you propose. You should pay special attention to how you ask questions, and make sure to adopt a scholarly approach that emphasizes careful, critical, interpretive thinking.
- The major info page has details on which courses may/may not count toward your concentration, plus other course details.
We have a database of student concentrations you may consult to see what others have proposed in past. Bear in mind that concentration requirements have changed from year to year, and that even approved concentrations vary in quality. But these may give you some idea of what’s possible.
The Concentration Process
Details on the concentration process will be shared with you as part of ENVS 220 (Environmental Analysis, fall semester), as that’s when you’ll do your concentration. Here’s the general sequence of milestones for fall 2017:
- Weeks 1-3: Explore topics relevant to environmental studies, and prepare a one-page summary of each (due Mon Sep 25).
- Go here for an overview (see sample concentrations/related topics at bottom), then here for the topics glossary. Choose roughly 2-4 topics you’re interested in via this form, ideally representing a distribution of topics among multiple topic categories (six total).
- Start compiling key topic resources into a Zotero bibliography, so that you can readily remember and cite them.
- For each topic, you will start a new GoogleDoc using the ENVS Topic Summary template, and fill it in primarily using the resources found in the topics glossary. Do not exceed one page! Make sure to follow our style recommendations (including avoidance of Big Words); all reference citations will use Chicago author-date format.
- We will develop topic affinity groups in class, and you will peer-review each other’s topic summaries, leading to improvements. You’ll then submit for instructor feedback. Your instructor will attempt to give you a proceed/don’t proceed decision for each.
- When done, save each topic summary for your own records as a one-page PDF file. You and other students working on the same topic will share one key topic only with a key CAS faculty expert for feedback (below).
- Weeks 4-5: Receive feedback from a CAS faculty expert on one key topic (due Mon 10/9).
- To optimize assistance from CAS faculty, choose only one of your topics. (We don’t want to overwhelm our busy faculty. If you do find a faculty member willing to offer feedback on additional topics, go ahead.) Working with your topic affinity group and instructor, identify a faculty expert willing to offer feedback on your topic summaries.
- As a group, send a formal, respectful email to this expert asking to meet with them to receive feedback. As a group, attach each of the summaries your group members authored on the topic, in PDF format. Make sure to copy your instructor and all group members on this email.
- When you meet with the CAS faculty expert, focus your discussion on key questions scholars are currently asking related to this topic, in order to see whether your questions are (a) current and (b) relevant. Make sure to take detailed notes! Each student will submit their notes to the instructor. Your topic affinity group will prepare a brief written summary of the feedback you received, and how you plan to incorporate it as you move forward with your topic.
- (Also) Weeks 4-5: Weave topics into a concentration theme (due Mon 10/9).
- During this time, you will also develop an interdisciplinary concentration theme that builds on the ENVS topics you chose above. (If you want to add a topic that you did not summarize above, you must consult with your instructor to understand expectations.)
- You will weave this theme via concept mapping as a visualization strategy: see this page for a general overview (with concentration application toward bottom), and here for a sample Cmap.
- When you are done, you should have a good idea of some key elements you’ll need for the below, including a synthetic concentration theme as expressed in the title of your concentration, and a set of intersectional questions you’ll use to guide your concentration summary, as well as (of course!) your concentration questions.
- One outcome of this work may be a post in which you include and discuss the Cmap you used to weave together your concentration theme; your instructor will clarify.
- Weeks 6-7: Prepare cases, with actor-process ANT Cmaps, for three situated contexts related to your theme (optional; not required fall 2017).
- Identify three relatively focused situated contexts appropriate to your theme. If you included a Places topic as part of your concentration theme, consider choosing two places inside this general context, and one outside as comparison.
- Research each case to learn about significant actors and connecting processes broadly related to your theme (they may be different in all three cases), then prepare a Cmap illustrating how these actors and processes relate. Make sure your actors are specific, yet represent all three Sack realms of nature, social relations, and meaning.
- Submit with a brief (one-para) explanation for each. (Depending on time, your instructor may require only one Cmap, with all three included in one post.) Cite and include key references for each situated context.
- Week 8-10: Prepare and submit concentration proposal (due Mon 11/13).
- Please see Concentration Proposal Instructions section below for details.
- Express your interdisciplinary theme as a clear, provocative, general title, optimally expressing an open-ended, question-based approach, and making sure to avoid Big Words. As noted at top, your concentration may include an explicit situated context (e.g., “Eastern Africa” or “Montane Ecosystems”); if so, include it in the title.
- Building on your topic summaries (in particular, key questions) and interdisciplinary theme Cmap, prepare a highly consise summary, explanation, and justification, along with your situated cases, to equal roughly 500-1000 words. Make sure to follow style and citation requirements!
- From the intersectional questions you identified above, prepare a brief list of 1-3 (each) descriptive, explanatory, evaluative, and instrumental questions related to your concentration, in consultation with your peers. We will then peer-review each other’s preliminary titles, summaries, and questions, and your instructor will give you a proceed/don’t proceed verdict.
- Prepare a concentration proposal as per below instructions. You will include a set of concentration (and humanities breadth) courses in consultation with your instructor and other resources.
- Remember, this is your final concentration proposal, so make sure everything is good to go by the deadline!
- Weeks 13-14: Receive final ENVS decision (around 11/27) & declare ENVS major/minor.
- Please see Concentration Approval & Finalization section below for all details on decision and finalization.
- Make sure, if approved, to declare your major/minor by the end of this semester! We and the Registrar’s Office do not allow late declarations.
Concentration Proposal Instructions
Your draft and final concentration proposal will be entered on a form. When approved, it will be a part of the concentration database for the benefit of other students, and will be connected to your ENVS student record. Here is a sample, and here’s how to fill out the proposal form:
- The first step is to establish a concentration landing page on your student scholarly site. You can format this page similar to a project landing page. This is a way to organize posts, projects, and other resources connected to your concentration, and to display them to whoever you want to view your site. (Remember, the concentration record you enter on the ENVS site is for logged-in users only.)
- Now, while logged into the ENVS group site, go to Add New Concentration, and enter your proposal text, making sure to follow all ENVS style guidelines (in particular, avoidance of Big Words) and using the Chicago author-date citation style. Here is how you’ll fill out this form:
- Enter the all-important title of your concentration in Headline Style Capitalization, representing your topic (and situated context, if you have finalized one). It can be creative but make sure it sounds scholarly, as it goes on your transcript. Next, you’ll enter your last name so your concentration can be readily searched.
- Enter your type of ENVS major (single or double with another major) or minor (with another major), and the URL to your concentration landing page.
- When your concentration has been approved, enter the date approved (only the month and year will be displayed, so feel free to enter the first of the month in which your concentration was approved).
- Provide a roughly 500-1000 word summary of your concentration, including a background on your broad topic of interest (and situated context if you have chosen one), and approximately 6-12 cited references in Chicago author-date format. (The exploration of this topic in at least three different situated contexts is optional for fall 2017; you may link to your actor-process Cmaps when discussing situated contexts if helpful.) The summary should demonstrate scholarly quality and creativity, and should set the stage for the questions you ask below. Feel free to use formatting, links, etc. as you wish, but make sure the final product is well written and looks good.
- Here come the all-important questions! Using the bulleted list button, create four bullets and label them Descriptive, Explanatory, Evaluative, and Instrumental, followed by a colon after each. Then add 1-3 questions of each type (start a new sentence for each question of the same type, but not a new bullet). Your questions will address your broad topic, and may if you wish address their implications in sample situated contexts.
- If you’re a single major only, you’ll enter your concentration courses, following specifications listed in the major info page. List department, number, title, credits, and likely semester of one concentration course at a time here, then add a sentence connecting it to your concentration. Follow this sample format: “ENVS 499 (Independent Study, 4 credits), spring 2015. Concentration-related research connected to anticipated East Africa overseas program fall 2015.” You may list up to 6 courses total; click the “Add New Concentration Course” button to add extra courses. Make sure to list at least 16 credits of concentration courses, and make sure (via Future ENVS Courses page) that your courses will actually be offered during the semester and year you propose them!
- Both single and double majors (not minors) will then enter their Arts & Humanities breadth courses. As you know, there are two (History 261 and Philosophy 215) that are automatically approved, and you must take at least one of these. If you wish, list one or more additional proposed Arts & Humanities breadth courses, one course at a time (no semester/year needed), with brief justification in terms of broad ENVS relevance or specific concentration relevance. Make sure the course is offered via Art, Classics, English, Foreign Languages and Literatures, History, Music, Philosophy, Religious Studies, or Theatre. Example format: “HIST 239 (Constructing the American Landscape, 4 credits). U.S. landscape history as exemplifying environmental practices over time.” Though only 2 A&H courses are required, you may list up to 3 courses total, including HIST 261 and PHIL 215 above.
- Okay, now save your draft. You’ll see under “Post relationship” at bottom the text “This Concentration belongs to Student Record”: under this text, enter the first few characters of your first name, select your full name (this is from your student record), then resave. When you’re all done, click “Publish.” If you’ve done this correctly, the first few fields (e.g., your name and graduation date) appear correctly on your concentration, and your student record has a link to the concentration as well.
Remember that your concentration proposal will be evaluated both on content and on form, so make sure to follow the above instructions carefully.
Concentration Approval & Finalization
Your concentration proposal requires a certain minimal quality, and we require good progress in ENVS 220 (indicative of your potential to succeed in ENVS), to receive approval, which is required of all prospective ENVS majors and minors. Approval is conveyed by ENVS faculty in consultation with the ENVS steering committee as needed. The factors we consider include:
- All required elements of proposal have been entered according to specifications above (and on proposal form), and follow ENVS style reminders.
- The proposal is linked to a concentration landing page on the student site that includes a brief summary and link to concentration-related posts.
- Title, summary, and questions reflect a coherent concentration theme and adequate scholarly preparation to pursue this theme.
- Summary builds on key literature, with citations/references in Chicago author-date format, and reflects ENVS interdisciplinary scholarship, including (optional for fall 2017) brief exploration of the concentration theme in situated contexts.
- Questions are of the correct type, are appropriately related to each other, and reflect important open-ended learning goals for the concentration.
- (If single major) Courses are appropriate for the concentration theme, follow stipulated requirements, and are well justified.
- The arts & humanities electives courses are approved for single/double ENVS majors alongside the concentration, but these courses don’t weigh into the concentration approval decision.
- As noted above, your progress in ENVS 220 is considered when approving the concentration, as indicative of your potential to succeed in ENVS.
If your concentration is approved, here are the important steps to take before the end of the semester:
- Now you can enter the approved date on your concentration form!
- For majors: complete the major declaration form. Your ENVS major advisor (either Jessica Kleiss, Jim Proctor, or Liz Safran) will need to sign this.
- For single and double majors: print out your concentration or area of interest (including approved date), and have the ENVS Program director sign and date it at the top, conveying ENVS approval. Attach this printed, signed concentration form to the major declaration, and submit to the Office of the Registrar. The courses included in your concentration form will then be added to your major requirements.
- For minors: You do not need to submit your approved area of interest form to the Reg Ofc (since no related courses are conveyed), but it needs to be approved before ENVS will sign off on your minor declaration form.
The above may sound intimidating! We do have a high bar in ENVS, and we expect much from our students. Feel welcome, however, to consult with an ENVS faculty member as you prepare your concentration: Jessica, Liz, and Jim are happy to help.
Changing a Concentration
It’s possible that you may need to change your concentration after it’s approved. If you just need to do minor edits to your summary or questions, go ahead and do it! (It’s good to keep your concentration/area of interest up to date for everyone’s benefit.) But if you need to change one or more courses, or do larger edits to your concentration title, summary, and/or questions, please carefully read and follow the directions below.
- First, ask yourself: do you have a good reason to change your concentration courses and/or make larger changes to your concentration title, summary, and/or questions? Remember, we allow you to propose more concentration and A&H courses than you will actually take so as to give you some wiggle room, and this usually addresses most needs. If, however, you have encountered logistic difficulties in completing your concentration courses, this constitutes an adequate justification. Additionally, if your interests in ENVS have evolved since your original concentration was approved, it is possible to do larger changes to your concentration, though bear in mind that this involves a good deal of work and your changes may not ultimately be approved.
- Second, be timely: new concentration and/or A&H courses can rarely be approved after they have been taken. You will need to make sure and do the below before you take any changed courses. For any larger changes to your concentration, it is highly doubtful that they will be approved during your senior year, as you will then be working on a capstone based on your concentration. ENVS 330 includes time for you to review and edit your concentration as needed; this is a realistic final chance to initiate any larger changes.
- Here are the steps to get ENVS approval for one or more changes in your concentration and/or A&H courses, or larger changes to your concentration title, summary and/or questions, relative to what was initially approved on your concentration/area of interest proposal:
- Email the ENVS Director, carefully explaining the courses you wish to replace (including existing courses to remove and new courses to add), or major changes you wish to make to your concentration title/summary/questions, and providing a clear rationale. The ENVS Director may request that you provide additional information, and may need to confer with the ENVS steering committee for approval, so plan on the process taking up to three weeks.
- If conditionally approved, the ENVS Director will ask you to update your concentration record to reflect the changed concentration and/or A&H courses, or larger changes to your concentration title/summary/questions, following exactly the same format as you did above. When you have done this, email the Director to confirm that your concentration record has been updated, including a link to the display version of your concentration. The Director may request additional changes prior to approval. Remember that your ENVS concentration record is your official record! Give your edits plenty of time to be done well.
- When you have received final approval for your concentration changes as reflected in your ENVS concentration record, the Director will sign a print copy, and you will deliver it to the Registrar’s Office just as you did your original concentration. Remember: your concentration changes are not final until you have delivered this signed hardcopy to the Registrar’s Office, and they have updated your degree audit so as to reflect your new course(s)…this may take several weeks.
If any questions on changing your concentration, feel free to make an appointment with the ENVS Director to discuss. We are happy to advise you on the best way to move forward with this very important part of your ENVS major.