Environmental Studies

Major & Minor

Learn about the the Earth's natural systems and humans' roles within them. Understand the causes of environmental challenges and build skills to solve them. Leave prepared to build more just and sustainable communities.

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Why Pursue Environmental Studies?

Do you care about the future of the environment? Do you want to find ways to address the complex environmental issues facing our planet?

Environmental studies will prepare you to engage communities and find solutions to environmental challenges.

Why Pursue Environmental Studies at Luther?

Decorah—with its woods, prairies, bluffs, and river—is a perfect place to study the environment. But while you’ll build a deep relationship with this place, you’ll also explore many others—through our global curriculum and robust study-away programs.

In the classroom, you’ll gain a holistic and integrated understanding of environmental studies through coursework that draws from more than a dozen academic departments. Courses will challenge you to explore and discuss the drivers and potential solutions to the environmental challenges we face.

Your learning will include hands-on projects and in-depth research to help you understand and address environmental issues. In the program, you will:

  • Collaborate with your classmates and community partners to research and propose responses to sustainability challenges in Decorah and on campus
  • Consider how you want to work to promote environmental justice through focused career exploration
  • Research, write, and produce a podcast with your peers on a critical environmental issue

Program Highlights


Get involved in sustainability! You can take part in ecological restoration events, join Luther’s student-led Environmental Concerns (ECO) club, and sign up for a plot in the community garden. You can also do work-study at Luther’s Center for Sustainable Communities. Sustainability is core to our mission. We consistently rank in the top tier of baccalaureate institutions for campus sustainability.

High-Impact Research

There are many opportunities at Luther to engage in research in environmental studies, usually in collaboration with faculty members. Summer student-faculty research projects have received support from organizations like the National Science Foundation and the US Environmental Protection Agency.

Off-Campus Opportunities

While you’ll learn a ton in Decorah, we also encourage you to learn in the wider world. Take part in one of our study-away programs focused on environmental studies. Intern off campus at places like the Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation, Iowa DNR, Upper Explorerland Planning Commission, the city of Decorah, Seed Savers, Nature Conservancy, or Winneshiek Energy District. We help you connect with so many opportunities to apply your studies to the real world!

What You’ll Learn

Core Courses

Environmental studies takes an interdisciplinary approach to understanding the environment. All students in the major will build a foundation through core courses in biology, philosophy, earth systems, political science, and sustainability.

Different Tracks

Beyond the environmental studies core courses, all students have the opportunity to choose a track within which to concentrate and deepen their study of the environment.

Plan one: Environmental Policy

Students in the environmental policy track will explore the ways we can organize our communities and institutions to better address environmental challenges. This track focuses on political science and economics.

Plan two: Environmental Science

Students in the environmental science track will take coursework in chemistry, biology, geology, and math to build the skills to understand the science of environmental challenges and solutions.

Plan three: Environment, Culture, and Society

Students in this track will draw upon perspectives from anthropology, history, and sociology to understand the ways human cultures and societies have shaped, and been shaped by, their environments.

Plan four: Individualized

The individualized approach allows students to develop their own concentration, in consultation with a faculty member of the environmental studies program.


Careers and Outcomes

A primary goal of the environmental studies program is to prepare you to enter the world, ready to take on a variety of environmental challenges. There are many career paths for people in environmental studies, including environmental education, policy and management, environmental science, and food systems. Our alumni are making an impact in careers across a broad range of organizations.

Career Fields

  • Strategic communications
  • Field research
  • Public affairs
  • Resource management
  • Environmental specialist
  • Logistics and project coordinator
  • Conservation planning


  • US Army Corps of Engineers Institute for Water Resources
  • Illinois State Water Survey
  • US Environmental Protection Agency
  • Grand Teton National Park
  • Iowa Soybean Association
  • Iowa Department of Agriculture’s Mines and Minerals Bureau
  • Green Iowa
  • Nature Conservancy
Claire Hamilton
Through my classes and my many other experiences while at Luther, I’ve learned that environmental issues aren’t just about the environment and that we need to look for solutions from a holistic perspective.
Claire Hamilton '19
Read Claire's Story
Blond man with beard and glasses, smiling, in front of solar panels
Environmental studies is an inherently interdisciplinary field, and that’s how it’s taught at Luther, from science to ethics to anthropology. Beyond that, Luther has made an incredible commitment to sustainability, to reach zero emissions by 2030. Luther walks the talk.
Charlie Sylvester '22
Learn More About Luther Sustainability

Hands-On Restoration

Luther students get real-world experience working with a local landowner to restore biodiversity to land that has been formally been grazed and used for agriculture.

Volunteer Corps

Many environmental studies graduates spend a year or two volunteering with various organizations. These opportunities help develop your skills, build relationships, and discover new passions. They prepare you for success in graduate programs or careers, while also providing you the opportunity to give back to society. Each long-term volunteer opportunity is unique, so you can discover one that best matches your interests.

Past Luther graduates have volunteered with the following organizations:

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