Goodwin-Niering Center for the Environment

The Goodwin-Niering Center for the Environment is an interdisciplinary academic program that draws on the expertise and interests of faculty, staff and students in the liberal arts to address contemporary environmental challenges. Students of any major can apply, and those accepted undertake a self-tailored path relating to their personal environmental passion and desired area of contribution, as well as become part of a larger community of discussion and support.   The center strives to integrate all areas of learning to deal with issues of environmental stewardship and sustainability, and incorporates real world aspects of environmental experience including service learning. Faculty members with environmental interests who are actively involved in the center come from the departments of anthropology, art history, botany, biology, chemistry, economics, English, government and international relations, history, philosophy, physics, psychology, sociology, and more.

The mission of the Center is to foster an understanding of biological diversity, the integrity of natural ecosystems and other fundamental environmental issues both in the College community and in the public sphere. Its programs foster an understanding of the interaction between people and ecosystems, including political, social and economic factors that influence natural resource use by different cultures worldwide. The Center encourages the integration of environmental themes into courses and student projects in the social sciences, humanities, arts and natural sciences. The Center supports and facilitates many campus­ wide environmental programs and activities. Student-run organizations, programs and events add rich opportunities for extracurricular involvement and education.  Center fellows who have experience in environmental issues and research provide another layer of support for Center students, and students receive professional and personal mentoring throughout their time in the Center.

Learning Goals for the Goodwin-Niering Center for the Environment

The Goodwin-Niering Center for the Environment was established in 1993 and is a comprehensive, interdisciplinary program that builds on one of the nation's leading undergraduate environmental studies programs. The center fosters research, education and curriculum development aimed at understanding contemporary ecological challenges. The center established a Certificate Program for students in 1999. The Certificate Program is designed to foster environmental thinking on campus. Students in the program will develop the following skills:

  • Objectively assess and effectively marshal information to under­stand contemporary environmental problems.
  • Integrate information and concepts about environmental issues from different disciplines and perspectives to achieve a creative and innovative synthesis.
  • Understand connections among components of complex environmental systems.
  • Develop effective presentations that have high levels of rigor and clarity, and that facilitate dialogue among faculty and students.
  • Draw connections between practical and theoretical learning.

The Certificate Program in Environmental Sustainability

The center offers a certificate program designed to enhance the under­graduate experience with a strong concentration on environmental issues and sustainability. Available to students in any major, it enables those who are ready for an additional academic challenge to cultivate their interest in environmental topics through coursework, conferences, individual study and a paid intern­ship or research experience during the summer following the junior year. It is appealing to those who wish to blend their interest in the environment with a non-science major and will be of particular interest to students planning careers in environmental policy, law, economics or education. With the assistance of a center adviser, students apply to the program in the fall of their sophomore year. As a part of the program, the center will help students find an internship or research project in the summer following their junior year and will provide a $3,000 stipend to cover travel and living expenses during the internship. The purpose of the internship is to offer students experiences that have a positive impact on their intellectual, professional and personal development through exposure to work environments that they might not otherwise encounter as an undergraduate.

Program Components

  1. Application: Students who have a 3.0 cumulative GPA may apply for the Certificate Program in the first semester of their sophomore year. During the application process which often begins in the spring semester of their first year, students are matched with a center adviser who helps them develop a program proposal. The application to be submitted in the fall of their Sophomore year must include the following:
    • application form.
    • program proposal.
    • academic transcript.
    • two letters of recommendation by faculty.
    • resume.

Environmental Studies

Taken as a first-year or sophomore






Additional Courses

  • Three additional courses selected to prepare the student for a summer internship or research project and their senior integrative project. The student chooses these courses in consultation with their center adviser.

Required Certificate Seminars

Taken during the spring semester of the sophomore year, one semester of the junior year and both semesters of the senior year, seminars prepare students for their internships and senior integrative projects. The four-credit seminar in the sophomore year includes a Service Learning Project that focuses on management of local preserves through a community partnership with a land conservation group. This seminar, and the two­ credit seminars in the junior and senior years, provide opportunities for in-depth discussion of current environmental issues with invited speakers; sharing of information among students with diverse interests; and practical assistance in the planning of internships and senior projects and in the written and oral presentations of the results.









Symposium/Conference Requirement

Students are expected to be active participants in workshops and special events sponsored by the Goodwin-Niering Center. In addition to events announced each semester, they must attend the biennial environmental Lear-Conant Symposium and write a reflection paper on the topic.

Internship/Research Project

Students participate in an approved internship or a faculty-supervised research project during the summer after the junior year. Center staff and faculty will support the student in finding and selecting an internship or research project that is closely related to the student's planned Senior Integrative Project.

Senior Integrative Project

A project that integrates the summer experience with the rest of the student's certificate program may be completed as a one or two-semester individual study or an honors study in the major field. Public presentation of the results is required.

For more information call 860-439-5417, visit the center's office in Olin 109, or go to