Explore the science that will enable you to study how ecosystems function and the policy alternatives that will allow you to examine solutions to maintain environmental quality.

Student meeting with success coach

Major Roadmap

Explore your options — classes, internships, research and study abroad. Find what interests you, discover what you love, and create a major experience that jumpstarts your future. 

Environmental Science and Policy Major Guide

Environmental issues such as climate change, water quality and biodiversity loss are significantly affecting the earth and human societies. As an Environmental Science and Policy major, you will study the science underlying environmental problems as well as the policy strategies that will enable you to develop solutions to these problems.  

But you won’t just stay in the classroom.  ENSP faculty and students conduct field research at Wild Basin Preserve, the Spicewood Ranch ecolab in the rural Hill Country and in tropical forests in Costa Rica. Apply your research skills to projects like examining the environmental impacts of electric scooters, testing Travis County residents’ water for lead contamination or examining whether paying Costa Rican and Ugandan farmers to not cut down their forests helps reduce deforestation.  

As environmental issues are inherently interdisciplinary, integrating science and policy allows ENSP graduates to acquire the research, analytical and technical skills necessary to acquire positions in a wide range of environmental careers in the public, private and non-profit sectors.  Degree Plan.    ENSP graduates are currently working as environmental scientists at private environmental consulting firms and regulators with the Texas Commission for Environmental Quality and earning acceptance to top environmental graduate programs (See more examples below).  

Austin, a sustainability-oriented city, is the perfect place to study Environmental Science and Policy, providing ENSP majors with a wide range of internship opportunities.  ENSP majors intern with state agencies such as Texas Commission for Environmental Quality and environmental organizations such as the Sierra Club, Nature Conservancy and Save Our Springs Alliance.   

What do our graduates do?

Environmental Science and Policy majors go on to a variety of careers and graduate schools from St. Edward’s. Here’s a sample.

  • Environmental health and safety consultant for Loureiro Engineering Associates
  • Environmental scientist at AECOM, a civil engineering firm
  • Program associate for the Energy Program at the Environmental Defense Fund
  • Community organizer for the Texas Campaign for the Environment
  • Program Manager, Texas Commission on Environmental Quality
  • Environmental Educator, Austin Youth River Watch
  • Master’s students at Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, Duke's Nicholas School of the Environment, School of Public and Environmental Affairs at Indiana University and the Erasmus Mundus Joint Master’s Program of the European Union.

Small Steps Lead to Big Change

Peter Beck, Professor of Environmental Science and Policy, helps students recognize the connections between environmental health and quality of life.   Hear his views on the importance of sustainability and protecting our natural resources.

The Classroom and Beyond

As an Environmental Science and Policy major, you’ll learn about both the natural world and the world of government and politics. In both settings, you’ll get plenty of hands-on education in the field. You may study and work at Wild Basin Creative Research Center in Austin, the St. Edward’s Ecolab at Spicewood Ranch, the Blunn Creek Nature Preserve next to campus, Waller Creek in downtown Austin, the State Capitol, state parks, and locations overseas.

One of our recent grads, Camila Rojas, just got a paper published from research that she did during a study abroad program with the School for Field Studies, which is focused on sustainability and environmental conservation. Read about her research and life after SEU by clicking HERE.

Environmental Science and Policy students work in the garden
Environmental Science and Policy students
Environmental Science and Policy students

Experiential Education

Your courses will take you all over Central Texas, as you visit parks and preserves and conduct research in the field. Your classes will also feature guest speakers from local environmental organizations, helping you learn about potential career paths and start to build your network.

Introduction to Sustainability is the first course you’ll take in your major. You’ll apply the sustainability concepts you learn to campus projects like planting and maintain the campus garden. You’ll also research sustainability initiatives to pitch to school officials for potential adoption on campus.

Natural Resource Conservation and Management emphasizes the real-world challenges of natural resource conservation and management. You’ll go on 10 outings to parks, preserves and private lands throughout Central Texas to learn about different resource management techniques and meet professionals in the field.

In Chemistry in the Environment, you’ll practice applying chemistry techniques to environmental issues. In a recent semester, students collected water samples from local residents and tested for lead and other contaminants.

In Environmental and Ecological Field Methods, you’ll learn different methods natural and social scientists use to collect data for research. Students in this course recently studied how dockless scooters were affecting traffic and safety in central Austin and whether scooters are helping people drive less. They also measured the diversity of species in Blunn Creek, a preserve next to the St. Edward’s campus, comparing patches of forest that were mostly native trees and patches that had been taken over by invasive species.

Study Abroad

Learning about environmental issues overseas can help you develop perspective on the problems American cities and states are trying to solve. In recent semesters, St. Edward’s has offered environmental-themed study abroad programs in France, Costa Rica and South Africa, although this is not an exhaustive list of places you can study abroad. As part of your international education experience, you may conduct research about other countries’ environmental strategies, ecotourism plans, conservation practices and agricultural techniques.

St. Edward’s provides enhanced study abroad opportunities with 20 partner universities across 17 countries and 5 continents. Learn more here.

In the Sustainable Development in Costa Rica source, you’ll take on a community service project; the program includes a study tour of Costa Rica, where you’ll explore issues of sustainable development and ecotourism.

Student Organizations

Students for Sustainability educates the St. Edward’s community about eco-friendly practices and works with the St. Edward’s administration to implement environmental initiatives. Members help maintain the campus garden, organize the campus Earth Day festival and initiate numerous sustainability measures on campus, including composting and reusable plates and silverware in the dining halls, clothing swaps and water-bottle-filling stations throughout campus.

The St. Edward’s Office of Sustainability offers internships and welcomes volunteers who help coordinate Earth Week and maintain the office’s blog.

Research

ENSP majors will work closely with faculty in faculty members to gain research skills and experience both in the laboratory and at our Wild Basin Wilderness Preserve.  Funding is available through the Hook Fellowship for students interested in conducting field research at Wild Basin and other properties in the Balcones Canyonlands Preserve.  Students can also apply for the BSS Research Award to obtain funding to present their research at academic conferences.   This research experience has been influential in enabling graduates to acquire positions with employers and graduate schools.  

Internships

ENSP majors gain valuable practical experience conducting internships with in the public, private and non-private sectors.  ENSP majors have interned with state and federal legislators, state agencies such as Texas Commission for Environmental Quality, environmental organizations such as the Sierra Club, Nature Conservancy and Save Our Springs Alliance and private companies such as Freedom Solar and Wildlife Management Services.