Nov 21, 2019  
Undergraduate Record 2005-2006 
Undergraduate Record 2005-2006 [ARCHIVED RECORD]

Environmental Thought and Practice

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253 Clark Hall
University of Virginia
P.O. Box 400123
Charlottesville, VA 22904-4123


Environmental Thought and Practice is a new major developed by a diverse group of faculty from across the University who are committed to addressing current environmental issues within a broadly interdisciplinary framework. Environmental problems concern natural phenomena whose dimensions are appropriately described by environmental scientists. However, the “problems” themselves result from changes in public perception that are contingent upon cultural constructs and historical events. Attempts to solve these problems necessarily fall within the political sphere, but policy debates draw in principles and discourses from philosophy, economics, and ethics. In short, understanding and solving environmental problems demands the ability to connect ideas from such diverse disciplines as anthropology, literature, history, ethics, politics, ecology, the earth and atmospheric sciences, economics, and land use planning.

The objective of the Environmental Thought and Practice program is to produce students who can:

  1. comprehend and think critically about scientific information, economic analysis, and the various ethical constructs that enter into environmental decisions; and,
  2. appreciate how political and social context, historical events, and cultural expectations shape the way we perceive and solve environmental problems.


The co-directors of the program are Vivian Thomson, Assistant Professor of Environmental Sciences and Politics, and Thomas Smith, Associate Professor of Environmental Sciences. The Program’s Advisory Committee includes Timothy Beatley, Associate Professor, Urban and Environmental Planning (School of Architecture); Ruth Gaare Bernheim, Executive Director, Institute for Practical Ethics; Jonathan Z. Cannon, Professor of Law and Director, Center for Environmental Studies (School of Law); James Childress, Edwin B. Kyle Professor of Religious Studies and Professor of Medical Education; Stephen Cushman, Professor, English; Fred Damon, Professor, Anthropology; Cassandra Fraser, Associate Professor, Chemistry; Michael Gorman, Professor, Technology, Culture, and Communication (School of Engineering); Ed Russell, Associate Professor, Technology, Culture, and Communication (School of Engineering); Hank Shugart, W. W. Corcoran Professor of Environmental Sciences and Biology and Director, Global Environmental Change Program; and, Mark White, Associate Professor of Commerce (McIntire School of Commerce).


The major is designed for students with a strong interest in the theory and practice of environmental issues. Each spring a maximum of 15 students will be selected for the program from a pool of applicants. Students will be chosen on the basis of prior academic performance, faculty recommendation, and an essay explaining the student’s interest in the field. The program will provide students with a background for continued study in graduate and professional schools or careers in business, government, NGOs, or advocacy groups.

Requirements for the Major

The Environmental Thought and Practice interdisciplinary major requires four prerequisites, three core classes, and seven electives. Before enrolling in the major students must meet the College’s natural sciences and social sciences area requirements.


All four prerequisite courses listed below are required for Environmental Thought and Practice majors. In order to apply for the major students must be enrolled in, or have already completed, at least two of the four prerequisite classes:

  1. ECON 201 Microeconomics
  2.  Any Environmental Sciences class other than those taken to meet the core or Natural Science area requirements
  3. One of the following Statistics classes: STAT 112, SOC 311, ECON 371 (requires MATH 121 or equivalent), MATH 312 (requires MATH 310), or APMA 312 (requires APMA 310 or equivalent)
  4. PLAN 103 Introduction to community and environmental planning

Core courses

The following core courses are required of all majors.

  1. EVSC 230/ETP 230 Politics, Science, and Values: Introduction to Environmental Policy
  2. Either EVSC 280/280L (1) (Physical Geology) or EVSC 320/320L (Fundamentals of Ecology) or EVSC 340/340L (Physical Hydrology) or EVSC 350/350L (Atmosphere and Weather). EVSC 320, 340, and 350 all require one semester of calculus; EVSC 280 recommends one semester of chemistry; EVSC 320 recommends one semester each of chemistry and biology; EVSC 350 recommends one semester of physics with lab.
  3. ETP 401 Environmental decisions (majors only)


Each student must also choose seven classes distributed across the three areas indicated below, with the restriction that at least two classes must be taken in Area I (Values, Culture, and History) and at least one class must be taken in each of Areas II and III (two classes are required in Area I because there are no such classes in the core curriculum). Once these distribution requirements have been met, an internship approved by the ETP program may be substituted for one elective class. Classes taken to fulfill the prerequisite or core requirements may not be counted as electives.

I. Values, Culture, and History

If approved by one of the ETP Program Directors, students may count one related 300-, 400-, or 500-level class in History, Anthropology, Philosophy, English, Religious Studies, Landscape Architecture, or Science, Technology, and Society against the two-class requirement for this area.

  • INST 352 - Sally Brown Seminar in Environmental Literature

II. Policy, Planning, and Society

Students may fulfill their one-class requirement for this track by taking any one of the following specific classes (there are no prerequisites for these upper-level Planning classes):

If approved by one of the ETP Program Directors, students may take one related 300-, 400-, or 500-level course in Economics, Politics, Sociology, the Law School, Darden, or Urban and Environmental Planning to meet the overall seven-course elective requirement, but not to meet the basic one-class requirement for this area.

The College allows students to count 18 credits of classes in other schools toward the 120-credit graduation requirement.

III. Natural Science

Any 300- or 400-level EVSC course. If approved by one of the ETP Program Directors, students may take one related 300-, 400-, or 500-level class in Biology, Chemistry, or environmental engineering (e.g., MAE 414, CE 205) to meet the overall seven-class elective requirement, but not to meet the basic one-class requirement for this area. (Upper level EVSC classes build on the classes listed above under “Core Classes.” Upper-level biology, chemistry, and environmental engineering classes can have several prerequisites.)


Students interested in becoming ETP majors should submit:

  1. a completed ETP application form;
  2. a letter of recommendation from a faculty member; and,
  3. a 300-400 word essay that addresses why you are interested in becoming a ETP major.

The above materials should be sent to either of the co-directors of the ETP program by March 1. Candidates will hear from the committee by the end of March.

The co-directors of the program are available to answer any questions about admission procedure and program requirements. Students may also obtain this information from the ETP website.

Additional Information

For more information contact either Vivian Thomson, Clark Hall, P.O. Box 400123, Charlottesville, VA 22904-4123, (434) 924-3964, or Thomas Smith, P.O. Box 400123, Charlottesville, VA 22904-4123, (434) 924-3107,

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