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.
Explore your options — classes, internships, research and study abroad. Utilize the Environmental Science and Policy Major Guide to find what interests you, discover what you love, and create an experience that jumpstarts your future.
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 (ENSP) 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.
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.
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.
Aransas Bay Trip
Watch below a 2 minute video of highlights from a trip by ENSP faculty and students to Aransas Bay! During the trip they visited Goose Island, Aransas National Wildlife Refuge, and Rockport. They also met with professionals from USFWS, TNC, an environmental consulting company, and graduate students at TAMU-Corpus with the Harte Institute.
Video produced by student Mao Katagiri:
Learning about environmental issues overseas can help you develop perspective on the problems American cities and states are trying to solve. In recent semesters, ENSP faculty have led 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.
Learn more about St. Edward’s enhanced study abroad opportunities with 20 partner universities across 17 countries and 5 continents.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
"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, Associate Professor of Environmental Science and Policy
"Learning about the natural world through direct experience is paramount to my philosophy of teaching topics related to Environmental Science and Informal Science Education. As a former outdoor educator for the Chesapeake Bay Foundation and high school Environmental Science teacher, I have seen first hand the value of introducing students to the outdoors as both a place for research and personal growth. My current research interests relate to sustainability in the built environment and ecological design."
- Steven Fletcher, Associate Professor of Secondary Education
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. Read more about Dr. Beck's Costa Rica research. Dr. Peter Beck was awarded a $300,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to fund student research in Costa Ric
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.
Dr. Steven Fletcher grew up on an Island off the coast of Rhode Island and quickly developed an interest and passion for the natural sciences. He continued study of natural systems at the University of Connecticut, where he graduated with a degree in Renewable Natural Resources. After 4 years as an outdoor educator and program manager - again on an island in the middle of the Chesapeake Bay this time - he traveled across country to build boats in Seattle. He then decided to pursue teaching in a more formal way and earned an M.Ed in Science Education from the University of Arizona. After teaching secondary environmental science in the Washington DC metro area and in Tucson Arizona, he moved to Austin to pursue a PhD in Science Education. He received his PhD in 2006. His passion for understanding the workings of the natural world, keen interest in communities of practice, and firm commitment to social justice serve him well at St. Edward's University, where he has taught both education and science courses. Dr. Fletcher has also been active in pursuing external funding opportunities, from private foundations and the National Science Foundation. He has served as the principal investigator for three NSF Noyce Scholarship grants from 2008-2022 totaling over 2.5M in scholarship and research funding for math and science teacher education.
Student and Faculty Awards
ENSP faculty member Peter Beck was awarded a $300,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to fund student research in Costa Rica.
Dr. Steven Fletcher was recently awarded 1.8M dollars from the National Science Foundation to provide scholarships for math and science teacher candidates.
Congratulations to ENSP faculty member Amy Concilio for receiving the SEU Distinguished Teaching Award for 2020!
Olivia Rome ’20, Yeji Kang ’20 and Jack Rippel ’20 received prizes for their research at the Texas Society for Ecological Restoration Conference.
Andi Utter '20 - Fulbright Scholar
Andrea Calderon - '19 - Pickering Fellowship, Doris Duke Conservation Scholar, Princeton Public Policy and International Affairs Fellow; Fulbright Scholar
Sarah Morton '18 - Fulbright Scholar
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.
- Introduction to Sustainability
- Environmental Science
- Environmental Politics and Policy
- Two other upper-division ENSP courses
- One additional ENSP elective
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.
Andrea Calderon - Outstanding 2020 ENSP graduate and Fulbright Scholar — has been awarded a prestigious Pickering Fellowship which will fully fund her graduate study and provide with a position at the US State Department. Andrea started a graduate program at Columbia University in Fall 2021 to study Energy and Environmental Management.
Joe Ferris - '19 Forest Project Coordinator, The Open Reforestation Protocol
Chelsea Gomez - '16 joined Andrea at Columbia University at the School of International and Public Affairs concentrating on Environmental Policy. After graduating, Chelsea spent two years in the Peace Corps in The Gambia as an Environment and Agriculture extension agent and served as a Community Climate Ambassador in Austin.
Clarissa De Leon - '19 won best undergraduate oral presentation at the 2018 Texas Society for Ecological Restoration Conference
Andi Utter '20 - was awarded a Fulbright Fellowship to teach in Kenya.
Sarah Morton '18 - received a MSc from Oxford University in England in Biodiversity Conservation and Management. Prior to entering the program, she spent a year in Taiwan as a Fulbright Fellow.
Colton Mitchell '21 - Groundwater monitoring specialist at the Texas Water Development Board
Hailey Reier '20 and Olivia Rome '20 are program managers for the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ)
Olivia Rome '20 and Yeji Kang '20 won best undergraduate poster presentation at the 2019 Texas Society for Ecological Restoration Conference
Melissa Grocki - '18 - has been an Environmental Health and Safety consultant for Loureiro Engineering Associates in Plainville, CT since graduating.
Meagen Wallace - '18 - after conducting research in Costa Rica with the NSF project, Meagen has been working in Washington DC as an environmental scientist for environmental consulting firm AECOM.
Victoria Edwards ’19 and Grace DeLucia ’19, Environmental Science and Policy majors, are now working as environmental specialists for SWA Environmental Consultants in Austin, Texas.