General Questions

1. What is Environmental Studies?

Environmental Studies explores the fundamental drivers of environmental problems, and develops within students the skills and aptitude for systems thinking, critical analysis and creative problem solving. Our focus is both local and global, and we draw upon the natural and social sciences, and humanities in our work. Coursework and applied experience together expose students to a range of environmental issues from the familiar, such as energy choices and climate change, to the less well-studied, like the rise of consumerism and the impact of changing settlement patterns.

2. Why not Environmental Science?

Surprisingly to some, both terms (‘environmental studies’ and ‘environmental science’) are used interchangeably when describing undergraduate programmes. Many environmental studies programmes in the United States require more natural science courses than their environmental science counterparts elsewhere. At Yale-NUS College, we wish to signal the interdisciplinary qualities of our programme, which draws upon the natural and social sciences, and humanities – hence the title ‘environmental studies’.  We expect our students to be well-versed in the natural sciences, so do not interpret ‘environmental studies’ to mean ‘no natural sciences’. Read it instead, perhaps, as ‘much more than the natural sciences.’

3. How is Yale-NUS’s programme in Environmental Studies different?

At least three elements differentiate us from other programmes.  First, Environmental Studies at Yale-NUS builds on an innovative common curriculum in the sciences, social sciences and humanities.  This curriculum provides the opportunity for extraordinary integration across fields of knowledge within environmental studies. ~~ Second, our ES curriculum is organized to enable students to see environmental problems from multiple angles and around different ways of questioning. In the environmental field, an ability (and the courage!) to ask the right questions about environmental challenges is often more important than immediately arriving at or ‘knowing’ the right answers. We find that this emphasis on asking good questions best serves our students, given that the environmental problems of tomorrow may bear little resemblance to today’s challenges. It also reflects our liberal arts DNA at Yale-NUS, which emphasises creative thinking and liberating action in the service of shared prosperity and intergenerational equity. ~~ Finally, while other Environmental Studies programmes emphasise breadth of knowledge, we balance breadth and depth by requiring students to take a small suite of compulsory foundation courses, and then develop an area of specialisation and complete a final project that integrates key themes and methodologies in our field. Perhaps one or more of the areas of specialisation designed by our students speaks to your passions.

4. How established is Environmental Studies at Yale-NUS College?

Ours is a vibrant and growing programme with a dynamic group of professors and students. About 10% of the Classes of 2017 and 2018 are majoring in Environmental Studies, making the programme one of the largest on campus.  We have an eclectic and dedicated group of faculty teaching courses and advising students. Students are engaged in an exciting variety of activities, including I’dECO and the Sustainable Solutions Network, and many are drawn to the YFES concurrent degree programme.

5. What do Environmental Studies students do after graduation?

Graduates are drawn to a wide variety of fields and find rewarding work in business, government and non-government sectors. Some continue their studies and earn advanced degrees. Learn more from the links at this page, and stay tuned for more information about what our graduates are doing.


1. What Environmental-Studies modules are being offered in AY2017-18?

Modules offered in 2017-18 are listed here.  A  complete list of all courses offered by the programme is available here.

2. Can (or should) students in Environmental Studies take courses offered at NUS or the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy (the LKY School)?

Yes! There are many courses at both NUS and LKY School that may be appropriate to Yale-NUS Environmental Studies students. Students in the programme share information about these courses, and the Head of Studies of Environmental Studies regularly sends out information on course possibilities. Students are ultimately responsible for identifying the best courses and planning their schedule, in consultation with their academic advisor, and with approval from the Head of Studies.

3. Can environmentally focused courses completed at NUS or during study away count toward ES-major requirements?

Sometimes, but not always, and not automatically, largely because so few courses are required for the major (only nine courses, as compared to a dozen or more at comparable U.S. institutions). Nevertheless, in most cases, students should still take those extra courses as electives to satisfy general graduation requirements and deepen their ES expertise. ~~ To answer the question: non-Yale-NUS courses can satisfy ES-major requirements in two ways. Most commonly, externally completed courses will be included in a student’s area of specialisation. Courses count if they are part of a coherent package of four upper-level 5 MC modules organized around a theme or question developed with an ES advisor. If, for example, you take an NUS course in environmental ethics and later fashion an area of specialisation in environmental ethics, that course could count as one of your four ES area-of-specialization courses. If you instead focus on, say, renewable energy economics, the ethics course won’t count toward formal ES requirements, though it is still a great course to have and should be clearly noted on your resume. ~~ On rare occasions, externally completed courses can also substitute for one of two required 2000-level ‘conceptual approaches’ ES courses. But this is uncommon ~~ ES majors frequently take environmentally focused courses off-campus understanding that they may not formally count toward ES requirements if they discover, as they develop their area of specialisation, that one or more of these courses fails to fit into their AoS. These courses nevertheless count toward overall MC-credit-hour requirements and may usefully inform the capstone project, so they aren’t ‘wasted’ in any way. Bottom line: students shouldn’t be shy about taking compelling ES-related courses off-campus. ~~ Final determination as to how a course is credited toward major requirements typically occurs in the third year of study, when a student finalizes their area of specialisation in consultation with their advisor.

4. What if I want to study a topic for which no course is offered or under development?

One-semester study abroad opportunities at a variety of partner institutions allow students to complete modules that may not be readily available at Yale-NUS, NUS or the LKY School. Additionally, Environmental Studies faculty often offer individual or small-group ‘directed readings’ around topics proposed by students. These 2MC modules are frequently designed by students in consultation with faculty.


1. What is the role and purpose of the capstone project at Yale-NUS College?

Our colleagues at YNC’s office of Public Affairs published a nifty overview of the capstone experience back in April 2017.  It’s worth a read.  Check it out at this link.

2. OK, that helps.  But what have ES students done for their capstone project?  Do you have any helpful examples?

Our first batch of graduates used the capstone experience to investigate a stirring array of important questions.  Go to the ‘Our Graduates’ page elsewhere on this site for a brief summary of each project.  For copies of five representative projects, go to this Google page.

3. How is the ES programme organizing the capstone process for 2017-18?

Here’s the summary overview document for 2017-18!  Professor Montefrio is serving as the coordinator.

Internships and Study Abroad

1. Where can I find information on Environmental-Studies internships?

The Centre for International & Professional Experience (CIPE) offers a range of corporate and public-interest internship opportunities, and provides resources tailored to Environmental Studies students. The CIPE website is regularly updated, so be sure to check it frequently.

2. What about recommendations for environmentally oriented study-away programmes? What courses should I take?

Consult with your Environmental Studies academic advisor prior to deciding on a study abroad programme. Many considerations go into selecting a study abroad programme, including your plans about your Environmental Studies area of specialisation. In most cases, the modules you take during study abroad will frame your area of specialisation and narrow the focus of your final capstone project. It is thus important to choose wisely, in consultation with your advisor and Environmental Studies students returning from study abroad.

3. Is there a preferred period when I should do my study abroad?

Most students study abroad during the first or second semester of their third year at Yale-NUS. Students who study abroad at Yale (a prerequisite for the concurrent degree programme with Yale’s School of Forestry and Environmental Studies) do so during the second semester of their third year only. Some students take their study abroad semester during the second semester of their second year of study at Yale-NUS; please consult with the Head of Studies of Environmental Studies before choosing this option.