class learning about wastewater treatment plants

Southern Oregon University identifies sustainable practices as a specific emphasis within our university mission. This commitment is realized, in part, by offering a wide-range of exceptional programs that emphasize sustainability and environmental awareness. SOU students will find courses emphasizing our commitment to sustainability in a wide-range of programs from art to business.

Degree Programs

Bachelor of Science in Environmental Science & Policy


SOU offers a Bachelor of Science in Environmental Science & Policy that prepares students for a wide variety of employment in such organizations as governmental agencies, industry, non-profits and environmental consulting firms. A BS in Environmental Science & Policy prepares students for graduate and professional schools in areas such as environmental policy and management, law, public policy, and environmental science.

A Bachelor of Science in Environmental Science & Policy integrates natural sciences and social sciences to address complex environmental issues.  The ES faculty has expertise in multiple disciplines including biology, geology, sociology, economics, geography, and anthropology. This diversity of areas allows the student to customize their ES Degree to their individual interests.

Bachelor of Art or Science in Sociology & Anthropology

The Sociology and Anthropology degree offers students a major based on the shared intellectual foundations and methods of inquiry of two distinct social science disciplines.

Sociology is the study of the social causes and consequences of human behavior. Sociologists investigate the structure of human groups and how people act within social contexts. Since all human behavior is social, the subject matter of sociology ranges from the intimate family to the hostile mob; from organized crime to religious movements; from the divisions of race, class and gender to the shared beliefs of a common culture; from work lives to digital selves.

Anthropology’s diverse subject matter of human beings in all times and places reflects the discipline’s interest in human culture dating from the Paleolithic past to contemporary times; from distant societies to the myriad subcultures of the Western world; from the biological bases of human behavior to our most elaborate cultural creations; and in the interaction of diverse peoples from colonial to modern contexts. 

Students develop the conceptual and analytic skills for understanding identity, behavior, culture, power, and social change. Coursework and curriculum in the sociology and anthropology program emphasize practical application of skills to a variety of social questions. Our students develop a critical, historical, and comparative perspective on social worlds and an appreciation for cultural diversity. The program’s close and supportive relationship with local groups and organizations provides a basis for meaningful student involvement in problem solving. Practical experiences culminate in a senior capstone designed and carried out under faculty supervision.

Master of Science in Environmental Education


The Master of Science in Environmental Education prepares graduates to work in the field of environmental education. The Environmental Education master’s program is housed within the College of Arts and Sciences. The integrated program draws from many disciplines on campus including the Education, Business, Communications, and Environmental Studies Departments, plus others. Visit the program's website to learn more about the curriculum, certificate options, program goals, and faculty.



Minors and Certificate Programs

Certificate in Sustainability Leadership


The Certificate in Sustainability Leadership (CSL) is an undergraduate interdisciplinary program designed to prepare individuals for leadership roles in organizations committed to sustainable practices. The program is designed to give students a strong foundational understanding in the three E’s of sustainability: economy, environment, and equity (also known as the Triple Bottom Line). The certificate provides students with a broad understanding of all of the major applied areas of sustainable organizational leadership, including alternative transportation, waste reduction, renewable energy, green building, corporate social responsibility, fair trade, shared value, localization, community finance, and other emerging sustainable business practices.

Students who complete the certificate will have a strong grasp of what sustainability means, how it is achieved, and the forces that discourage sustainable practices. This understanding will enhance their ability to serve as effective leaders in both small and large corporations, nonprofit organizations, and the public sector throughout the region, state, and country. Students will have opportunities to work on real-world projects in the many fields of sustainability and explore how their personal values and future goals relate to their practice of sustainable organizational leadership.

Environmental Science & Policy Minor


Environmental Science and Policy is the investigation and body of knowledge related to the dynamic interactions between people and natural systems.

At SOU, the Environmental Science and Policy program provides the opportunity to develop an understanding of the complexity of natural systems, natural resource use and sustainability enabling students to appreciate and solve dynamic environmental issues.

In the Environmental Science and Policy program, students will research and address such global issues as climate change, water resource management, energy use, sustainable development, and the conservation of biodiversity.

Social Justice Minor

The Social Justice minor helps students understand relationships of vulnerability, power inequity and institutions of change, and provides tools needed for informed and effective participation at all levels of community. This minor complements most majors offered at SOU and provides a powerful vehicle for developing the constructive critical perspective on which a liberal arts education is grounded.

Students working toward a minor in Social Justice are required to register with a Social Justice advisor. Students must meet all applicable requirements listed in the Minors section of this catalog, including the Minor residence requirement.

Courses on the Environment, Ecology and Sustainability

BA 483/MM 590 Sustainable Organizational Leadership

Students explore their roles as organizational leaders from various perspectives on organizational sustainability including alternative transportation, waste reduction, renewable energy, green building, corporate social responsibility, fair trade, localization, community finance, and other emerging sustainable business practices. Familiarizes students with important concepts, principles, and frameworks relating to the sustainability movement including natural capitalism, triple-bottom-line, and the three E's of sustainability: Economy, Environment, and Equity. Applied focus with emphasis on each student's specific organizational context and future leadership aspirations.

BA 490/MM 590 Case Studies in Corporate Sustainability

Introduces students to a variety of contemporary organizational case studies in sustainable business. Familiarizes students with many of the corporate leaders who are at the forefront of the sustainable business movement. In addition to case studies covered in class, each student is required to research and present an in-depth case study on an organization or particular area of interest in the sustainable business movement.

BI 340 Introductory Ecology

Covers the interactions of organisms with their environments and each other, as well as population dynamics, biological communities, and ecosystem functions.

BI 383 Science and Advocacy in Environmental Policy Debates

Explores the interactions of science and advocacy in the development of environmental policy. Investigates controversial environmental problems where science and advocacy are confounded and where the common good and special interests are difficult to discern. Students engage in dialogue based on analysis of case studies, including issues related to forest health, use of pesticides, resource development, global warming, and loss of biodiversity.

BI 386 Forest Ecology and Management

Introduces the principles of forestry, including the biology of forest ecosystems and the management of these landscapes for societal benefits. Topics include biodiversity, logging practices, fire suppression, sustainable forest management, forest economics, ecological principles, and biogeochemical cycles.

BI 388 Conservation of Natural Resources

Explores the history, principles, and practices of natural resource use and abuse, particularly in the United States. Emphasizes understanding of scientific and ecological principles and economics as the basis of sustainable human development.

BI 438/538 Conservation Biology

Covers ecological, evolutionary, and genetic principles relevant to the conservation of biological diversity. Includes habitat fragmentation, preserve design, the effects of disturbance on communities, introduced species, ecological restoration, and policy making in conservation.

BI 454/554 Plant Ecology

Examines the structure, methods of analysis, environmental relations, and dynamics of vegetation.

BI 475/575 Aquatic Ecology

Explores the physical, chemical, and biological properties of freshwater environments. Emphasizes field sampling, laboratory analyses, and identification of major taxonomic and functional groups of aquatic organisms.

CH 100 Fundamentals of Chemistry

Introduces the structure, properties, and composition of matter and chemical changes. Designed primarily to help the non-science major understand the function, importance, and capabilities of chemistry in our environment and culture.

CH 101 Environmental Chemistry

Examines the basic chemical principles as applied to areas of current interest and concern in the natural environment and modern technology. Includes such topics as air and water pollution, toxic waste disposal, use of pesticides and fertilizers, and energy production.

EC 315 Environmental Economics

Applies economic analysis directly to environmental problems. Explores market failure, Pareto optimality, externalities, consumer surplus, and market solutions. Introduces benefit-cost analysis and addresses local problems.

EC 351 Oregon's Future

Presents an interdisciplinary approach to contemporary issues in Oregon, including politics and history; population demographics; educational problems and reforms; budgetary outlook, tax restructuring, and spending issues; the status of prisons and crimes; and environmental issues.

EE 507 Selected Topics in Environmental Education

Explores current topics in environmental education. Presented at Deer Creek Center for Field Research and Education.

EE 524 Concepts in Environmental Education

Explores the field of environmental education from its beginnings to the present. Considers the diversity of goals and practices in environmental education, including place-based education. Students visit, research, and evaluate environmental education programs and curricula, including both local and national programs. Includes field trips to local programs.

EE 527 Place-Based Curriculum Development

Studies the physical and biological environment at Deer Creek center for Field Research and Education or another site in the Klamath-Siskiyou bioregion. Students investigate patterns of natural resource use by the community. This knowledge is then used to generate a place-based curriculum for implementation at the field station.

EE 528 Environmental Issues

Investigates relevant environmental issues important to today's environmental educators. Prepares future environmental educators to address a wide range of local, regional, and global issues facing society. Areas of study include the loss of biodiversity and strategies for preservation and recovery of threatened species, management of natural resources in a sustainable manner, and global issues affecting the welfare of human population and the biosphere.

ES 101 Intro to Environmental Studies: Earth Science

This interdisciplinary science course provides students with a basic understanding of the Earth's atmosphere, geosphere, and hydrosphere. Topics include minerals, rocks, atmospheric and oceanic composition, and the structure of the Earth's interior. Provides a framework for students interested in the major processes operating on the Earth's surface and in its interior. Intended for environmental studies students, but also open to students pursuing general education requirements.

ES 102 Intro to Environmental Studies: Biological Science

Studies the interactions of organisms with their environments and each other at the levels of individuals, populations, communities, and ecosystems, and how organisms and their interactions are shaped by evolution. Introduces biodiversity, species conservation, and ecosystem services.

ES 103 Introduction to Environmental Studies: Social Science Perspectives

Studies how people perceive and interact with their bio-physical environment. Develops key concepts and analytic tools from anthropology, economics, geography, political science and sociology. Applies these social scientific perspectives to contemporary environmental issues, like global climate change and forest health in the Pacific Northwest. Develops literacy in the social sciences, and prepares students to make thoughtful choices about how to live, work and interact with their environment.

ES 111 Physical Environments I

Explores and analyzes the environment, bringing together the many physical factors that create a complete understanding of Earth system operations. Includes basic concepts and relationships between and among the atmosphere, hydrosphere, geosphere, and biosphere with emphasis on the atmosphere and hydrosphere. Familiarizes students with human-environment interactions that are relevant to our lives.

ES 112 Physical Environments II

Explores and analyzes the environment, bringing together the many physical factors that create a complete understanding of Earth system operations. Includes basic concepts and relationships between and among the atmosphere, hydrosphere, geosphere, and biosphere with emphasis on the geosphere and biosphere. Familiarizes students with human-environment interactions that are relevant to our lives.

ES 210 Environmental Studies I

Offers an interdisciplinary study of how the natural and social sciences combine to examine, debate, and solve environmental problems in our society. Fosters environmental awareness, stimulates discussion, and encourages critical analysis of environmental problems.

ES 310 Environmental Applications

Offers an interdisciplinary study of a current topic in environmental application such as energy, water resources, land use or endangered species. Explores the integration of natural and social sciences in examining, debating, and solving specific environmental problems faced by society. Fosters critical analysis of complex issues by stimulating discussion and debate and raising awareness.

ES 327 Energy and Climate Change

This course explores the interconnections among natural resources, energy, and global climate change. Topics include the extraction and origins of fossils fuels, carbon dioxide emissions, long-term and short term climate variability, and alternative energy resources such as geothermal, hydroelectric, nuclear, solar, tidal, wave, and wind. Intended for environmental studies students, but also open to other university students interested in issues of energy and climate change.

ES 351 Environmental Policy and Impact Analysis

This course addresses environmental law, policy and environmental impact analysis. Methods by which society appraises the likely effects of a proposed action on the environment, alternatives to the proposal, and appropriate measures to be adopted to protect culture and natural systems are investigated. The course addresses the preparation of Environmental Assessments (EAs) and Environmental Impacts Statements (EIS) under the guidelines of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). Federal environmental laws and international protocols are reviewed in the context of air, water, energy, toxic substances, waste management, and genetically engineered organisms.

ES 379 Biodiversity

An interdisciplinary study integrating theory, methods and applications in modern biodiversity sciences, covering the origins of biodiversity, ecological and biogeographic distributions of diversity, major adaptive radiations, episodes of mass extinctions, with a focus on the problem of modern extinctions. Includes descriptions of biodiversity within geneological and ecological hierarchies, phylogenetic theory and lineage analysis, a broad overview describing the results of modern systematics research and bioinformatics. Applications of biodiversity sciences in biological inventory, monitoring, and global biodiversity assessment are explored through case studies and practical examples drawn from recent literature.

ES 421 Ecological Economics and Sustainable Development

This course addresses the topic of sustainable development focusing on economics at the interface of states, nations and the global economy. Students will complete a comprehensive study of the emerging field of ecological economics and contrast/compare to the neoclassical economic model of development. Students will conduct an in-depth analysis of a developing region, state and/or nation in terms of economic development based on population, agriculture, industrial development, and natural capital (ecosystem goods and services). Students will be required to propose policy options for sustainable development within a region, state and/or nation and provide a means by which development will move towards global sustainability.

ES 423 Sustainability and Natural Resources

Critically examines sustainability as it has been defined and debated globally and locally, applying the concept to natural resources (e.g., forests and water), places (e.g., universities and communities), and decisions (e.g., governance and markets). Considers the interrelatedness of ecological, social and economic systems and various efforts to balance their needs through interdisciplinary research, public policies, market mechanisms, global initiatives and grassroots activism.

ES 442 Valuation of Ecosystem Goods and Services

This course addresses the topic of valuation of goods and services provided by ecosystems that are critical to society. Students will complete a comprehensive review of economic non-market valuation techniques applied to assess the value of natural systems not often captured in markets. Students will conduct an in-depth analysis considering market and non-market values of an environmental resource and propose policy options for a decision on the optimal use of the natural resource.

ES 475 Environmental Modeling

This course teaches environmental simulation modeling and the application of computer model results to real world problems in environmental studies. Computer-driven data analysis and modeling have become critical to the understanding and resolution of environmental problems and issues of sustainability and natural resource management. This course teaches computer simulation modeling skills and environmental system dynamics through an applied approach requiring the conceptualization, construction and creation of dynamic computer simulation models to aid in the resolution of environmental problems.

ES 494 Environmental Studies Capstone

Students plan a research project, write a project proposal, conduct research, write a final report, and make an oral presentation to faculty and peers in a single term.

ES 495 Environmental Studies Capstone (Honors)

Introduces accepted students to the senior capstone honors process. Requires a written proposal outlining the project goals, tasks, timeline, and budget.

ES 496 Environmental Studies Honors Capstone II

Supports students completing their senior project. Assures communication with cooperating entities and emphasizes data collection, findings, and initial analyses. Drafts outline of final report.

ES 497 Environmental Studies Honors Capstone II

Supports preparation and completion of final written and oral report. Emphasizes data analyses and critical thinking on conclusions and recommendations.

G 102 Physical Geology

Covers sedimentary and metamorphic rocks, shoreline processes, geologic time, energy and mineral resources, earthquakes, crustal deformation, and plate tectonics. Familiarizes students with various aspects of Earth's physical environment. Offers a description, analysis, and interpretation of geologic structures and Earth surface processes from topographic maps, aerial photographs, and experimentation.

G 314 Hydrogeology I

Introduces hydrologic science, including the hydrologic cycle, the drainage basin concept, storage and residence time, precipitation, evapotranspiration, stream hydrology, and water resource management.

G 360 Environmental Geology

Explores and synthesizes the interrelationships between biological, chemical, physical, and sociological environments as viewed from the physical aspects of Earth systems. The fundamental concept involves an understanding of the physical environment, the natural controls placed on it, and its influence on biologic systems, including humans. A companion concept involves the effect of human interactions on the physical environment and subsequent repercussions.

G/GEOG 433 Soil Science

Offers an introduction to pedology and field techniques in describing soils. Develops a quantitative and qualitative understanding of morphology, origin, chemistry, and classification of soils. Topics include weathering, mineral and organic constituents of soil, nutrient cycling, soil erosion and contamination, biological activity in soils, and agriculture. Explores issues related to the environment and land use planning with respect to soils.

GEOG 101 Introduction to Geography: The Rogue Valley

Introduces the skills and methods used in observing and interpreting geographical environments. Employs fieldwork, aerial photographs, maps, and basic data to examine the physical and cultural elements of the Rogue Valley from 1852 to the present.

GEOG 360 Global Issues in Population, Development, and the Environment

Examines contemporary global issues and investigates the roles played by cultural values, technologies, infrastructure, and sociopolitical organizations as intermediaries between human population growth, poverty, and environmental degradation. Provides the conceptual tools to formulate questions about how human societies choose to invest wealth in population growth, consumption, economic growth, or environmental preservation. Term projects require students to identify a significant and specific case relating population growth to economic development and environmental degradation and to recommend action goals.

GEOG/ES 437/537 Conservation in the United States

Explores the evolution of Western environmental perceptions from classical times to present. Emphasizes environmental movements in the U.S., the forces behind environmental crisis, and the responses of society and its institutions.

GEOG/ES 439/539 Land Use Planning

Applies land use planning history and legal foundations as the framework for exploring problems in land use planning, development, and public policy formulation. Pays particular attention to Oregon's land use planning legislation and its regional implementations.

GEOG/ES 440 Planning Issues

Provides opportunities for in-depth exploration of contemporary land use planning issues. Students gain insight into the planning philosophies underlying the issues and the technical aspects of planning through participation in community planning efforts such as mapping, surveys, and inventories in the Rogue Valley.

GEOG 482/582 Climatology

Investigates the physical mechanisms that control the spatial aspects of global and regional climates. Develops a qualitative and quantitative knowledge of the Earth's atmosphere system through an understanding of spatial variations in heat, moisture, and the motion of the atmosphere. Applies these concepts to a wide range of issues in climate, human activities, and the environment. Discusses human consequences, including natural vegetation assemblages, agriculture and fisheries, health and comfort, building and landscape design, industrial influences, and issues of climate change.

HE 362 Community Health

Examines principles of community health and safety, with emphases on the safety of water supplies, sewage disposal, and other environmental practices affecting the health of a community. Includes study of public health agencies, selected volunteer nonprofit health agencies, and opportunities for practical experience in the community.

HST 421/521 Environmental History

Examines the historical relationship between the earth and human societies in Europe, Africa, Asia, and the Americas from earliest times to the present. Combines lecture, video presentations, and discussion.

OAL 362 Outdoor Recreation Programming and the Environment

Explores the planning and management of adventure tourism with a special emphasis on the natural environment and impacts, including economic and sociocultural aspects.

OAL 444 History of the Pacific Northwest Wilderness

Provides the OAL student with a historical perspective of the natural, cultural, and legal events that have shaped the region's national forests and wild areas. Explores the literary legacy, geography, and current environmental issues affecting the use and protection of forest lands in the Pacific Northwest.

PH 306 Sustainability: Materials Technology and Design

Introduction to basic properties of building materials (e.g., strength, heat transport), concepts of design (e.g., day-lighting, passive solar) and technologies (e.g., photovoltaics, LED lighting). Critical analysis of life cycle, performance characteristics, environmental impact and sustainability of conventional and new approaches.

PH 308 Energy and the Environment

Offers a systematic study of current energy-related issues, with an emphasis on the environmental impact of energy production and use. Discussions focus on resource limitations, social values, economics, and the politics accompanying energy issues. Offers an introductory-level review of the physics of energy and analysis methods.

PH 309 Energy Alternatives

Explores the soft energy paths that have emerged from the general awareness of resource limitations. Topics include alternative energy options available to a modern society at both global and local levels and the many facets of solar energy technology, wind, biomass, hydrogen, and energy efficiency.

PH 310 Energy Policy

Explores major energy issues and the processes and players involved in developing and implementing energy policy. Discussion includes technological and social aspects of associated economic, environmental, and equity tradeoffs. Issues such as global change, electricity industry restructuring, and the hydrogen economy are investigated, as well as energy markets and energy systems planning. Case studies are used to focus the discussions on real situations.

PS 340 Law, Science, and the Environment

Examines the capacity of the legal system to satisfactorily resolve environmental and other disputes that require decision-makers to reach conclusions based on scientific evidence. Tracks a lawsuit or administrative proceeding involving environmental issues from beginning to end, exploring the difficulties scientists, lawyers, and juries face when trying to make sense of one another.

PS 428 Policy and the Environment

Explores the historical, conceptual, and normative foundations of public resource administration.

PS 441/541 Environmental Law

Examines the major techniques and strategies used by policy-makers and regulators to protect and enhance the environment. Pays special attention to the economic, social, and political barriers that prevent effective regulation of the environment.

PSY 435/535 Environmental Psychology

Explores the theories, empirical research, and methodology of environmental psychology. Discusses environmental perception; the effects of noise, temperature, air pollution, and wind on behavior; personal space; territoriality; crowding; urban problems; leisure; recreation; and environmental activism.

SOC 350 People and Forests

Examines the relationship between past and present human societies and forest ecosystems. Explores how local and global political, economic, and cultural factors influence changing forest-use patterns in the Pacific Northwest. Pays particular attention to ways of achieving forest sustainability.

SOC 420 Environmental Sociology

Examines the relationship between the human social institutions we create and the biophysical environments in which we live. Topics may include the culture of nature, population and consumption, political economy of environmental problems, social construction of environmental problems, evolution of environmental activism, public attitudes toward the environment, collaborative and community-based resource management, and environmental problem solving.

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