About ES

Geography, Urban, Environment & Sustainability Studies

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The ES program is organized around the following four major themes
1. Analysis of the world’s environmental and social problems
2. Analysis of the solutions to these problems
3. Understanding the barriers to implementing these solutions
4. Applied project work towards implementing solutions in our community/region

The world’s environmental and social problems are intensifying as resource depletion and pollution deepen.  Climate change exacerbates these trends, and our ability to maintain global agricultural yields is as at risk.  All of these unsustainable trends are interrelated, and compounding shortages of critical resources/pollution assimilation capacity.  These shortages are hindering the prospect for economic growth leading to a wide variety of social problems culminating in an increase in the number and severity of failed states.   Students will learn about these problems, their interactions, future trends, and the debate regarding their extent, causes, severity, future impacts on your lives, and the extent of current policy responses.

There are a wide-range of potential solutions to all these alarming trends.   Examples include locally produced renewable energy (wind/solar) replacing fossil fuels, or local food systems replacing large industrial agricultural systems.  Students will analyze the most promising of these emerging sustainable solutions and appreciate the improvements in their lives that would result from their implementation.

For each environmental/social problem and potential solution there is usually a raging policy debate.  For example, consider the debate in the United States regarding our problematic energy, food, health care and financial systems.  Usually one can find powerful economic interests blocking meaningful changes that would come at their expense.  Students will analyze many of these examples, and gain a better understanding of how these special interests are able to manipulate public policy to their advantage at the expense of the general public.

Finally, to really appreciate environmental/social problems, the potential of emerging solutions and the barriers to their implementation students will be required to work on actual projects in our region.  We have a unique arrangement with numerous regional organizations conducting such project work that allows students to plug into a wide diversity of projects aimed at improving social, environmental and economic sustainable development. 

In the end, the ES program provides a sound academic background in the natural sciences, economics, policy, geography, sociology and anthropology as well as many interdisciplinary ES courses aimed at integrating the information coming from all these diverse fields of study.  In addition, all students will have the unique opportunity to work outside the classroom on a wide variety of community based sustainable development projects to make them truly effective environmental/social problem solvers.

ES Required Internship Program:  Students in the Environment & Sustainability Program are required to complete two internship courses. The first, ES 5040, is designed to familiarize students with a wide variety of ongoing regional sustainable development projects. In this course, community project managers are invited to speak to the class every weak, students have the opportunity to discuss these projects with the individuals and organizations conducting them, and ultimately sign up for an internship that matches their interests and expertise. The second, ES 5050, is the actual internship. In this course, students work closely with community project managers on a wide variety of outside the classroom sustainable development projects.

ES Honors Program: To graduate with honors students will need to maintain a 3.3 GPA and present their community project work to a public audience.

Full ES curriculum requirements for: ES Major, ES Minor


Proposal Form (required)

Students will propose a list of courses as electives within their major or minor. Once the majority of the program core for either the major or minor is completed, students may submit this application. The courses within the proposal must be courses that will be taken in the near future. Courses already taken may not be accepted. Students are required to consult with their advisor or ES Director before selecting their elective courses. The ES director has the final approval.

ES MAJORS: Since the major does not require a minor or second field of study and if students elect to have a second field of study, only TWO proposed courses may be applicable to the second field of study. Proposing additional courses to satisfy multiple minors/majors may not be accepted. Students with a major submit this form to their ES Advisor. (10 credits; 5 courses)

ES MINORS: Students with a minor may apply only ONE proposed course that is also applicable to another field of study. Proposing additional courses to satisfy multiple minors/majors may not be accepted. Students with a minor submit this form to the ES Director. (6 credits; 3 courses)

ES Proposal form


Program Components

The following are the critical components to UMD’s ES Program.  They include interdisciplinary course work, a wide variety of faculty research/community project opportunities and independent community service learning work with the ES Programs many community partners. 

1. ES/URS/GEOG Courses aimed at problems and solutions
2. GIS courses aimed at tools for analyzing social/environmental problems
3. Courses outside of ES, GEOG and URS (Biol, Chem, Econ and Policy)
4. CSCD/GAC and other faculty Research (energy systems, food systems, transportation, lighting, finance, urban design etc….)
5. Community Partner Projects
6. SDROP - Sustainable Development Research Opportunity Program
7. Program advisory board (consisting of active faculty and community partners/practitioners)



UMD’s ES Program Assessment is centered on the following seven learning outcomes:

• Analyze and Explain Key Environmental and Social Problems (interactions)
• Analyze and Explain Key Solutions to Environmental and Social Problems
• Analyze and Explain Barriers to the Implementation of Solutions
• Demonstrate Ability to Implement Solutions in Community or Region
• Demonstrate Effective Written, Graphical and Oral Communications
• Demonstrate Effective Research and Project Development skills
• Apply Learning in Their Own Life Choices

Students demonstrate their learning progress via a wide variety of assessment measures including exams, written assignments, project development proposals, project presentations, community project work and an ongoing quantitative assessment (Ecological Footprint) of their social, economic and environmental consumption impacts.