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.

Environmental issues such as climate change, fresh water availability and biodiversity loss are having an ever-increasing impact on the earth and the economy. As an Environmental Science and Policy major, you will study the science behind environmental problems like climate change and water pollution, as well as the policy strategies, such as regulations and economic incentives, which 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, an urban nature 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.  ENSP graduates are currently working as environmental scientists at private environmental consulting firms, as regulators with the Texas Commission for Environmental Quality and as the Beyond Coal campaign organizer with the Sierra Club.  In addition ENSP graduates have been accepted into top environmental graduate programs including the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, Duke’s Nicholas School of the Environment and the School of Public and Environmental Affairs at Indiana University.

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. The city government has developed innovative policies to address climate change, minimize waste and maintain natural areas as green space.  Many Austin businesses also have programs to reduce their environmental impact.   And because it is the state capital, state agencies such as Texas Commission for Environmental Quality and major environmental organizations such as the Sierra Club, Nature Conservancy and Environmental Defense have offices within a few miles of the St. Edward’s campus.   Many ENSP majors do multiple internships while at St. Edward’s providing them with the experience necessary to acquire permanent positions upon graduating.

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
  • Recipient of the USDS Critical Language Scholarship
  • Doctoral candidate Botany at the University of Hawaii at Manoa

Small Steps Lead to Big Change

Peter Beck, associate professor of Environmental Science and Policy, helps students develop an awareness of environmental issues. Hear his views on the importance of sustainability and protecting our natural resources.

Degree Plan

Major Requirements: The Bachelor of Science in Environmental Science and Policy requires 57 hours of major courses, which include a combination of environmental science and policy, political science, biology, chemistry and economics. In addition to the required courses, each student will concentrate in a science or policy field by selecting 9 additional hours in one of the above listed natural or social science disciplines.

Electives: Students complete 15 hours of elective courses in any area of study they choose. These courses do not have to relate to the major.

General Education Requirements: The degree requires 48 hours of general education courses that students complete over four years in addition to their major courses and electives.

View the full degree plan (PDF). 

A few examples of courses students in this major take:             

  • Climate Change – explores the issue of global climate change through an interdisciplinary lens, covering the science, impacts on the environment and human populations, and management and policy responses 
  • Chemistry in the Environment - students learn about how nutrients and toxic chemicals move through the environment and what we can do to reduce their impacts, and participate in a hands-on service-learning project testing lead in tap water of at-risk homes in Travis County
  • Environmental Politics and Policy – examines the political process through which environmental decisions are made and the different regulatory and market-based policy alternatives for achieving environmental goals.  
  • Research Experience in Environmental Science and Policy – students train in research methods and design and conduct a guided research project on an environmental topic of their choosing. 

Our Faculty and Student Support Services

"I teach environmental science and policy because it gives me the opportunity to work with students who are passionate about making their world a better place.  Austin is an ideal location for this as its vibrant environmental community offers numerous opportunities to apply these lessons to examine issues affecting our campus and community."

– Peter Beck, Professor and Coordinator of Environmental Science and Policy

"I employ a diversity of research methods, including ecological field trials, greenhouse experiments, stakeholder interviews, and policy analysis to measure impacts of global change on plant communities and ecosystems and to test the effectiveness and feasibility of land management approaches. Through outreach activities and close collaboration with researchers and practitioners from a range of different backgrounds, I work to translate my scientific results to conservation action."

Amy Concilio, Assistant Professor of Environmental Science and Policy

Environmental Science and Policy Faculty Research Interests

The research interests of Dr. Peter Beck, Environmental Science and Policy Coordinator, involve examining policies that seek to integrate environmental and development goals internationally and campus sustainability in the United States.   He has conducted research in Kenya, Uganda and Costa Rica and currently has a $300,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to study the effectiveness of different conservation incentives at conserving tropical forests.  Through this grant, ENSP students have the opportunity to spend three months conducting field research in Costa Rica, Panama and Uganda.   Dr. Beck also has developed international field courses for St. Edward’s students in Costa Rica, Chile, South Africa and France.

Dr. Amy Concilio is an ecologist with research interests in global environmental change, invasive species biology and management, and ecosystem restoration. She has worked on research throughout the US west exploring the impacts of climate change on shrubland and grassland ecosystems, and approaches to restoration and land management in an era of global change. Current projects include evaluating the effectiveness of a restoration effort at an urban park from both social and ecological perspectives, studying the response of the plant community and ecosystem function to extreme drought in Texas grasslands, and investigating land management approaches that increase carbon sequestration in forests and grasslands of the Texas Hill Country. Dr. Concilio welcomes student participation in her field research and has advised ENSP students on their Honors Thesis research, McNair research, and ENSP culminating research experience.

Student Support Services

Along with personal attention and mentorship from their professors, our students have access to offices and programs outside of the classroom that support their success. We encourage students to take advantage these resources that help them thrive and excel:

  • Academic counseling and advising
  • Supplemental instruction and tutoring
  • Career preparation and advising 
  • Writing Center consultation
  • Health and wellness counseling
  • Student disability support

Learn more about these services.

Outside the Classroom

Students majoring in Environmental Science and Policy can explore career paths and practical application of their studies through internships and interactions with the greater Austin community.

Research and Exploration

ENSP majors will work closely with faculty in BSS and Natural Sciences 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.  

Service Learning Courses

All ENSP majors will gain practical experience through a semester long internship with a local governmental and non-governmental environmental organization such as the Sierra Club, Austin Youth River Watch and Texas Commission for Environmental Quality.  In addition, students will participate in service learning projects, both on campus and in the Austin community, in numerous other courses, such as Introduction to Sustainability and Local Controversies in Austin.    

Field outings

ENSP students spend plenty of time exploring Texas's diverse prairies, forests, and wetlands on class field trips. In Fall 2018, students enrolled in ENSP 4349- Natural Resources Conservation and Management went on a 3 day camping trip to Santa Ana National Wildlife Reserve in the Rio Grande Valley to learn about how managers are working to conserve bird biodiversity across international borders. Read about that trip and more in the ENSP in the  Field blog.

Culminating Experience 

Environmental Science and Policy majors conclude their undergraduate experience with a major research project and a senior internship at a local environmental organization. These initiatives ensure you’ll have the analytical skills and practical experience necessary to succeed in your chosen environmental profession. 

About the Minor

Whether you are interested in environmental consulting, research management, or simply adding an environmental perspective to your prospective field of interest, a minor in Environmental Science and Policy can help you prepare for a more sustainably mindful career.

Required Coursework:
  • Introduction to Sustainability
  • Environmental Science
  • Environmental Geology
  • Environmental Politics and Policy
  • Two other upper-division ENSP courses