e s f home link - e s f college of environmental science and forestry
e s f home link - e s f college of environmental science and forestry

Environment, Communication & Society Bachelor of Science in Environmental Studies


This option focuses on how communication and social systems influence environmental affairs and shape our perceptions of the non-human world. It addresses the subjects of rhetoric and discourse; news media; public participation; advocacy campaigns; collaboration; conflict resolution; risk communication; social processes; and representations of nature in literature and popular culture.

In addition, the option helps students explore the diversity of ways that environmental problems are understood, and ways that cultural meanings of nature are expressed, including through literature and the arts. No matter where your career path leads, the critical value of having a strategic, systems-based, and skilled understanding of communication dynamics and processes cannot be exaggerated.

The ECS option is based on the premise that it is through written, oral, and visual communication that humans determine their relationship with the rest of the planet and with each other concerning it. Therefore, the option is committed to equipping students with increased knowledge and skills to contribute to the effectiveness of all aspects of the environmental, civic, governmental, non-government organizations, and business communities.

We provide a broad-based foundation in environmental communication theory and application through core courses that all students in the option take. Yet we know students have individual interests and plans, so the option is flexible enough so students can choose option courses and option methods courses that make the most sense. Individual interests that students may pursue as part of this option include literature of nature, environmental values and ethics, the meanings of nature, advocacy, collaboration, leadership and group processes, dispute resolution, mass media and popular culture, information use, environmental journalism, and environmental education/ interpretation.

The ECS option is based on four key ideas.

  • Communication among Diverse Perspectives: We seek to strengthen students’ ability to identify and appreciate their own and others ideological and cultural
    perspectives as expressed in written, oral, and visual discourse. This increases students ability to better understand and participate in key ecological debates; work effectively with scientific, resource management, governmental and advocacy communities to address complex environmental issues; and build campaigns and educational programs.
  • Theory into Practice: We place a primary emphasis on the application of theory so that students gain informed skills they can strategically use in diverse settings in non-government organizations, industry, government or wherever their professional lives take them. We highly value service learning, experiential learning, and field experiences as part of a student’s program.
  • Critical Thinking: We encourage students to think critically about cultural patterns, economic and political lives, ethics, risk, science, the mass media, popular culture, literature, and other means by which we humans socially construct our beliefs, attitudes, policies, and behaviors. We encourage students to especially think critically about ecological degradation, power and beauty.
  • Preparing for the Long Haul: We recognize the value of the “whole person” and reflect this in our emphasis on spirit, imagination, celebration, connection to the natural world, emotional and artistic expression, building an affirming community, and sharing reflections on the personal challenges environmental
    professionals face. We want students to connect with the sources of their own deepest passions.

ECS Courses

An ECS option Course is one that allows students to expand or deepen their understanding of those aspects and intersections of environment, communication and society. It is in the selection of these courses that students are able to more deeply explore their individual interests. The following is a list of courses students may select from. Other Upper Division courses may be selected in consultation with your Advisor and students are urged to explore what else is available that meets their learning objectives. Be careful to make sure that you meet the prerequisites for a course before signing up.

Option Requirement Overview

Category Course Name Credits
  • EST 390
  • EST 395
  • EST 493
  • EST 423
  • One from Method list (listed below)
  • Four courses from the list below. NOTE: Limitations exist for Environmental Writing Minors
  Total Option Credits 27

All courses in the Communication, Environment, and Society option are offered at ESF.

Required Courses

  • EST 423: Rhetorical Practices in Environmental Communication
  • EST 395: Public Communication of Science & Technology
  • EST 390: Social Processes and the Environment
  • EST 493: Environmental Communication Workshop

Methods Courses (EST 423, plus one of the following):

  • EWP 495/695: Environmental Journalism
  • EWP 420: Public Presentation Skills
  • EFB 416: Introduction to Environmental Interpretation
  • EFB 417: Non-Personal Environmental Interpretative Methods
  • EFB 418: Interpretation of Field Biology (summer course)

Option Electives (Choose four Option Elective classes listed in the sections below appropriate for your situation):

For all ECS students, regardless if they are pursuing the writing minor:

  • EST 388: Psychological Principles of Risk Communication
  • LSA 312: Place/Culture/Design
  • FOR 372: Fundamentals of Outdoor Recreation
  • FOR 312: Sociology of Natural Resources

For students NOT pursuing the writing minor:

  • EWP 300: Survey of Environmental Writing
  • EWP 311: Urban Environmental Literature
  • EWP 390: Literature of Nature
  • EWP 490: Contemporary Literature of Nature
  • EWP 494/696: Creative Non-Fiction in the Sciences

Elective SU courses:

  • CRS 338: Communication in Organizations
  • CRS 355: Political Communication
  • CRS 426: Persuasion
  • PAF 420: Interpersonal Conflict Resolution Skills
  • PSC 315: Media & Politics

EWP 300 and EST 395 should be taken early in the program cycle, typically fall and spring Junior year, respectively. Other courses may be taken in any sequence. Students should consult college catalogs and discuss other possibilities with their Advisors in order to support individual areas of interest. The most relevant courses at Syracuse University to look at include those offered by the departments of Communication and Rhetorical Studies, Political Science, and Sociology, respectively. The Program for Advanced Research on Conflict and Collaboration (PARCC) also offers courses in conflict resolution methods and skills.

Typical Course Sequence

This is a possible sequence for the Environment, Communication, and Society option. In consultation with your Advisor, you may adjust this sequence to suit your specific situation.

Junior- Fall Course Name ESF or SU Credits
EFB 320 General Ecology ESF 4
EWP 410 Writing for Environmental Professionals ESF 3
EST 361 History of the American Environmental Movement ESF 3
EST 423 Rhetorical Practices in Environmental Communication ESF 3
EST 395 Public Communication of Science & Technology ESF 3
    Total Semester Credits 16
Junior- Spring      
EST 321 Government and the Environment ESF 3
APM 391 Introduction to Probability and Statistics ESF 3
  Upper Division Environmental Studies Social Science ESF 3
EST 390 Social Processes and the Environment ESF 3
  General Elective ESF/SU 3
    Total Semester Credits 15
Senior- Fall      
  Upper Division Computing or Natural Science Course ESF 3-4
  Senior Synthesis ESF 3
See list of 4 ECS Elective Course ESF/SU 3
  ECS Method Course ESF 3
  General Elective ESF/SU 3
    Total Semester Credits 15-16
Senior- Spring      
EST 494 Senior Seminar in Environmental Studies ESF 1
CMN 493 Environmental Communication Workshop ESF 3
See list of 4 ECS Elective Course ESF/SU 3
  ECS Elective Course ESF/SU 3
  ECS Elective Course ESF/SU 3
  General Elective ESF/SU 3
    Total Semester Credits 16