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Environmental Science and Sustainability at Rochester

Growing up in a generation where climate change is heavily talked about, I was always curious about nature and how the environment worked. This spring I took the class Introduction to Environmental Science as a part of my Health, Environment, and Sustainability cluster.

I was amazed by the different ways people approach studying this field. To gain a better understanding of the resources available at the University of Rochester for environmental science students, I had the opportunity to interview Professor Karen Berger.


The Department of Earth & Environmental Science offers both a Bachelor of Science in Environmental Sciences and a Bachelor of Arts in Environmental Studies. These two majors share a lot of similarities while having their unique approaches. Professor Berger mentioned those who choose to study Environmental Science gets a more science-heavy experience compared to those studying Environmental Studies. To complete a major in Environmental Science it requires a lot of Chemistry, Biology, and Physics classes. To complete the Environmental Studies major, students get to choose classes across various fields ranging from natural sciences to humanities.

Professor Berger also talked about the different routes that students take from completing the two majors. Those who complete the Environmental Science major usually pursue higher education and work on laboratory research. While those who complete the Environmental Studies major work on environmental policymaking, fieldwork, and urban planning, and focus on the human application aspect. 

A bit of general advice from Professor Berger was to take classes in the field while you complete the prerequisites in your first and second years. A lot of 200-level classes do not require any prerequisites and taking them on the side will help you understand whether or not you like this field.

Extracurricular activities & research:

  1. First Year & Upperclassman EcoRepsEcoReps is a student-led jointly academic and residential life program that works towards increasing sustainability on campus. Being a part of this program allows for hands-on leadership training in an academic context. EcoReps are in every residential building working towards encouraging students in the residence halls to be more cautious of the environment. Those that enroll in the first-year EcoReps programs take a two-credit class while upperclassmen can join and take a onecredit class.
  2. UR Grassroots: This is a student-run environmental activism club on campus that works towards making the campus more sustainable. They organize clothes donations, park clean up, and much more.
  3. Student Association Position (Secretary of Sustainability): Along with clubs and organizations, SA is a great place to get involved to help create an environmentally friendly campus. The Sustainability section of SA focuses on building a culture of recycling and minimizing personal waste around campus. 
  4. Research: A lot of faculty members are conducting research in Environmental Science and related interdisciplinary fields. These research varies from fieldwork to computer modeling. Getting involved in research is a great way to gain the skills necessary for the future workplace.


These are some of the many resources available to students at the University of Rochester to get involved in working in sustainability. Another very important resource is the Meliora Collective which connects alumni and current students. Through this resource, students can talk to alumni who are working in fields they are interested in. This will open doors for opportunities and helps students figure out if they like this field or not.


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