The Environmental Studies Programme at Yale-NUS College seeks to combine academic breadth and analytic depth to foster deep learning of and critical engagement with a variety of environmental challenges to human and planetary well-being.
Our goal is to prepare students to be knowledgeable, resourceful, curious, creative and reflexive agents of solutions or adaptation in the emerging Anthropocene era, where the causes and consequences of environmental change will spill across tidy disciplinary lines with greater uncertainty, demanding a capacity to think simultaneously about an intimidating variety of issues. These issues include the production and use of scientific knowledge, ecosystem function amidst human-induced stress, the magnitude and distribution of resulting environmental risk in an unequal world, the power of the arts to evoke insight and change, configurations of political power and policy-making from the local to the global, the interplay between technological and social innovation, and the search for resilient and sustainable pathways to a better world.
To advance this mission, the ES programme offers academic and applied experiences that provide students with essential analytic, research, and communication tools for interrogating human-environment interactions. We seek to foster knowledge and skills required of us all as the planet grows warmer, less biodiverse, more unequal, and in ever greater need of the wisdom and leadership that liberal arts colleges are built to nurture. In individual modules and the larger curriculum, the programme strives to practice scholarly multi-lingualism and methodological pluralism; if students will be crossing disciplinary boundaries in their environmental-studies inquires, they must be open to understanding the languages and tools employed by sometimes divergent professional and academic communities. We do not expect students to become experts in everything listed in the preceding paragraph — that would be madness — but we do aspire to encourage within our pupils an analytic capacity, intellectual boldness, inspired curiosity, and critical reflexivity around a handful of subject domains that can serve as a springboard for engaging the full range of environmental issues that are already present, as well as those on the horizon.
Course modules in the environmental sciences, social sciences, and humanities allow and encourage students to approach environmental challenges from the intersection of the college’s three divisions, enhancing the likelihood of serendipitous connections across fields and the discovery of novel approaches to knotty problems. Early course modules in the program (at the 1000 and 2000 level) build on lessons from the Common Curriculum to cultivate student capacity for insight across disciplines. Later course modules within a concentrated area of specialization complement this foundational breadth with focused depth in a field or around a specific question. The one-year capstone project in a student’s fourth year of study, also in the area of specialisation, allows for the further cultivation of depth in the field, informed by the breadth of the liberal arts.