Why Pursue Environmental Studies?

Connecting to People: Dedicated Faculty in the Classroom and as Research Mentors

Luther College offers both a major and minor in environmental studies with more than 40 courses from over a dozen academic departments and programs. These classes provide many avenues to learn about our environment and to engage in dialogue about ways of addressing the many environmental challenges we face. A dedicated core faculty group ensures students have an integrated interdisciplinary experience in environmental studies and gain the skills needed to excel in graduate studies or in the workplace.

At Luther, environmental studies students engage with the faculty in the classroom and beyond. Students conduct research with faculty in many departments, including English, Anthropology, Chemistry, Biology and Environmental Studies, both during the summer and during the academic year. Recent projects have included:

  • evaluating different proposed starting dates for the Anthropocene, from the origin of agriculture to the first nuclear tests;
  • analyzing antibiotic resistance in the microbiological communities of local streams;
  • monitoring monarch butterflies in NE Iowa prairies;
  • studying communities practicing voluntary simplicity;
  • examining the effects of woodland burns on invasive species;
  • using ocean sediments to determine tropical sea surface temperatures in the past in order to better understand the effects of modern global warming;
  • investigating federal policies to promote pollinators.

Connecting to Place: Study Local, Go Global

The forests, springs, waterfalls, limestone bluffs, and prairies surrounding the Luther campus offer not only wonderful recreational opportunities, but also the perfect natural laboratory for gaining field and research skills in the natural sciences. Meanwhile, the College’s commitment to sustainability, a vibrant local food system, and strong community initiatives for sustainable energy and watershed resilience planning offer abundant avenues for students to experience what it means to put environmental studies into practice. Environmental studies students work with faculty to conserve and restore habitats on campus, help plan campus sustainability initiatives, and connect with active community groups both in and out of the classroom.

Environmental studies students at Luther ‘go global’ on January-term study away programs that engage in environmental issues around the world. In ‘Green Europe’, students study alternative energy in Germany and the UK. ‘People and Parks in East Africa’ immerses students in the Maasai culture in Tanzania and examines the conflicts between parks set up to protect wildlife and the needs of the people who live there. Students in ‘Environmental Issues in the Pacific Northwest’ live at Holden Village, surrounded by the wilderness of the North Cascades.

For extended study away opportunities in environmental studies, Luther College offers the Earth & Environment in Italy program, a semester-long program focused on environmental geology in which students carry out field-based projects in the mountains of Italy while living in a medieval village and experiencing rural Italian culture. Luther also participates in the Luther College Washington Semester, with a hallmark internship program in which students gain valuable real-world experience interning in congressional offices or with national organizations such as the Wilderness Society and the Center for American Progress. Students also study away on other programs around the world.