Welcome to Environmental Studies at Whitman College
The natural setting that surrounds the city of Walla
Walla, Washington, provides Whitman College's Environmental Studies
Program with a superb living laboratory in which to study a wide
range of issues associated with the interactions between humans
and nature. In addition to the agricultural, grazing and timber
activities that make up the predominant economic uses of the land
of southeastern Washington and northeastern Oregon, environmental
studies students have ready access to a great number of resources:
the Columbia and Snake rivers with many large hydroelectric dams
(an office of the Bonneville Power Administration is located in
Walla Walla); the Hanford site (U.S. Department of Energy), which
includes the Washington Public Power Supply System nuclear reactor,
the Arid Lands Ecology Reserve, and Pacific Northwest Laboratory
(Battelle); the McNary National Wildlife Refuge and other wetlands;
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Walla Walla District); Natural Resources
Conservation Service (U.S. Department of Agriculture); the U.S.
Forest Service, which includes the Umatilla National Forest-Walla
Walla Ranger District, the Wenaha - Toucannon Wilderness Area, and
the Interior Columbia Basin Ecosystem Management Project; the Malheur
Field Station (in Burns, Oregon); the Boardman, Oregon coal generating
plant; and the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation,
particularly the Tamastslikt Cultural Institute, based in Pendleton,
The program introduces students - those majoring in
environmental studies and those wishing to add knowledge of the
field to their general education - to a wide variety of perspectives
that examine the many connections between humans and nature. To
do this, the program combines a broad set of relevant courses in
the natural and social sciences as well as the humanities.
Environmental studies majors first develop a common
core of knowledge through introductory environmental studies courses
and basic departmental course work taken from biology, chemistry,
economics, geology, physics, politics, and sociology. The student
selects one of these seven fields as his or her primary area of
concentration. Working with both the environmental studies advisers
and an adviser in the discipline selected, the student maps out
a program of study which meets program requirements and the student's
interests. Work for the major is capped by a senior seminar, in
which recent issues and publications are critically discussed, and
a senior project, in which the student completes an original piece
of work having to do with a selected environmental issue.
Recent student research has investigated the Hanford
"Isaiah" project for plutonium disposal, logging and environmental
conflicts in Idaho, ecofeminism, regulatory strategies in the wetlands
debate, cattle grazing impact on sensitive plants in Oregon's Blue
Mountains, the origins and future of the German Green Party, the
changing culture of the U.S. Forest Service, the Wise Use movement
in the region, environmental effects of the 1996 floods in the Pacific
Northwest, integrated pest management as a strategy in apple orchards,
and the changing effectiveness of environmental organizations.
The goal of the program is to offer the student a
foundation in natural and social science, so that she or he can
approach any environmental issue in a critical and informed manner.
Environmental studies are thus combined with environmental science
and environmental management within a liberal arts program and philosophy.
The basic preparation can then transfer easily to further graduate
training or to an immediate career in research, policy, or some
other professional environmental direction.
Many of our students have also completed internships
with environmentally relevant organizations located or based in
Walla Walla, such as, the U.S. Forest Service, the Walla Walla County
Office of Recycling and Waste Management, and Walla Walla County
Regional Planning, Army Corps of Engineers, and the Washington State
Fish and Wildlife Department.
The hallmarks of the Whitman program are its multidisciplinary
organization, and local and regional in empirical emphasis. Students
wrestle with the challenges, and come to understand the necessities,
of an interdisciplinary approach in the elucidation of any environmental
problem. They develop a literacy in understanding their Walla Walla
environmental address, so they can appreciate the deep links between
their temporary community and the surrounding human and natural
environments. Field trips and internship opportunities are a vital
part of this experience.
Whitman's Environmental Interest House offers environmentally
involved students the opportunity to live together in community.
Interest in the program on campus is high and increasing. And environmental
studies alumni are engaged in successful careers in science, law,
business, education, and direct environmental advocacy and action.