The New School offers the Bachelor of Arts (BA) and the Bachelor of Science (BS) degree in Environmental Studies. Both programs bring together courses from the natural sciences, the social sciences, and design. Administered by the Tishman Environment and Design Center, Environmental Studies looks beyond natural ecology and resource conservation to emphasize urban ecosystems, sustainable design, and public policy. The program allows undergraduate students to study and work at the intersection of society and nature, with interdisciplinary courses and individualized study that combine faculty expertise with student interests.
The Environmental Studies program is part of a new wave of urban-focused study that examines both the natural and social ecosystems that flourish in cities and the wider ecosystems, such as watersheds, that support cities with natural resources. Students analyze the ecological impact of the systems that sustain city life, including energy, food, water, construction, manufacturing, and transportation, many of which draw on distant natural resources.
Through fieldwork, including partnerships and internships with local organizations, government agencies, and businesses, students explore critical urban environmental issues, applying classroom knowledge to real-world problems. Recent projects have included determining the cooling effects and impact on air quality of street trees in the West Village; testing the use of water-cleaning oysters as a means of restoring aquatic life in the East River; examining the food system on the Lower East Side; and deciding which plants are best suited to a roof garden in Midtown.
A wide range of professions are turning to design to respond to the complex challenges of sustainability. The combination of systemic and lateral thinking characteristic of design allows students to find creative, sustainable ways to develop the natural and built environment. Design is also a means by which innovations spread. Sustainable design envisions both how the world might be different and how to make it different.
Prospective students apply for direct entry into Environmental Studies, which begins in the freshman year. Coursework enables students to develop a profound understanding of urgent environmental problems. The curriculum integrates education in design skills with instruction in environmental policy, economics, and natural sciences, helping students address environmental issues with creative and scientifically sound solutions.
The Environmental Studies program is unique in incorporating studio classes—in which students address environmental problems by working on closely supervised projects involving design—into a liberal arts curriculum. Students in the Parsons-based Bachelor of Science track take three extra studio classes, complete a capstone project, and can concentrate in sustainable design by taking three design electives. In the second and third years of study, all program students participate in fieldwork, which forms the basis of the senior project.