Georgetown Launches Undergraduate Degree on the Environment and Sustainability

December 14, 2023

Georgetown has launched its first degree program for undergraduate students interested in studying the environment and sustainability.

Students in JESP will have access to immersion experiences that will enable students to apply knowledge from the classroom in the field. In summer 2023, students went on immersion trips to study the environment in the Peruvian Amazon and the Yucatan.

Starting in spring 2024, first-year students and sophomores can enroll in the core courses of the Joint Environment & Sustainability Program (JESP) and work toward a bachelor of science degree in environment and sustainability offered jointly by the Earth Commons Institute and the College of Arts & Sciences. All incoming Hoyas in the Class of 2028 can also enroll in the JESP program in the fall semester.

“Now more than ever, a liberal arts education should encourage students to pursue their interests passionately while also preparing them to wrestle with the most pressing issues of the day, including the global climate crisis,” said Rosario Ceballo, dean of the College of Arts & Sciences. “The Joint Environment & Sustainability Program will not only empower students, but will equip them with an array of scientific and humanistic skills to address the environmental problems of our time.”

Georgetown has offered undergraduate students outlets to pursue studies related to the environment, such as the minor in environmental studies, but JESP is the first standalone four-year degree program in which undergraduates can dedicate the bulk of their studies to the growing fields of the environment and sustainability. After increasing student interest in this area of study, the Earth Commons Institute and the College of Arts & Sciences worked together with the Red House at Georgetown to develop the program.

“Over the last few years, we’ve seen an unprecedented amount of student interest in pursuing studies related to the environment and sustainability,” said Peter Marra, dean of the Earth Commons Institute. “Today’s students and future generations will bear the brunt of the climate crisis and other environmental degradation, and this new degree program will prepare our students to be the leaders of tomorrow our world so desperately needs if we are to reverse the effects of humans on the environment, an environment we as humans are also critically dependent upon.”

An Interdisciplinary, Liberal Arts Approach to Environmental and Sustainability Studies

Unlike many environmental studies programs that hone in on one aspect of environmental science or policy, students in JESP will take a series of core courses in environment and sustainability and can then narrow their focus on interdisciplinary subjects in environmental science, policy, the arts or humanities.

“Students are coming from lots of different areas and mindsets, and we want to encourage them to start where they are now and bring their perspectives and knowledge to the table. We don’t want them to start from scratch,” said Jesse Meiller, associate teaching professor in the Earth Commons Institute and the Graduate School of Arts & Sciences who was a leader on the team that developed the new program. “So it’s not just sustainability or environmental science or policy, but lots of different paths to build on their interests and hopefully expand into other areas they haven’t even thought of yet.”