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Approved Courses

For more details on the program's coursework requirements, please see the handbook.

Fall Semester 2018

Category I: Social Sciences/Humanities/Arts

ANTH 390 Topics: Ethnoecology
This course will introduce students to the theoretical paradigms of political and historical ecology. The overall objective of the course is to provide students with a critical awareness of how social relationships and cultural logics mediate human-environment interactions to produce particular environmental histories. The course objectives will be achieved primarily through in-depth explorations of historical case studies that illustrate the interrelationships between social environments and the ecological and material worlds that people both inhabit and produce. For example, in an examination of contemporary coffee production in Southeast Asia we will detail an increasingly common confluence of neo-liberal policies and global market access to smallholder agricultural production in developing countries, considering both their social and ecological consequences (e.g., pronounced deforestation and reforestation in the case of Vietnam’s Central Highlands). Other case studies will highlight different socio-ecological configurations relevant to contemporary policy discussions and environmental politics, but not necessarily situated in the current “neo-liberal climate.” More specifically, several of the case studies will use archaeological and paleoecological data to evaluate contemporary tropes about the distinctions between “modern” and “traditional” forms of land use—the former frequently characterized as profligate control of Nature while the latter is romanticized as sustainable practices “in harmony” with Nature. Through these examinations the course will evaluate Nature as an historical product that is not so neatly separable from the domain of Culture.

ECON 245 Environmental and Natural Resource Economics
This course uses economic theories and concepts to explore environmental and natural resource problems and evaluate policies for addressing them. Topics vary and may include energy, water, agriculture, sustainable development, environmental justice, and other timely issues. Prerequisite: ECON 100. Not open to students with credit in ECON 335

ENG 191 Reading Literature: Science, Nature, and Technology
This course explores literature as a response to scientific and technological change. It considers the ways that new scientific discoveries inspire new visions in literature and the ways, in turn, that imaginative writing inspires new approaches in science. It features literary works that contextualize past scientific and technological advances, interpret and critique changes happening in the present, and imagine the changes that might occur in the future.

ENG 322 Creative Nonfiction Topics: Nature Writing
This class will focus on the reading and writing of creative nonfiction.  You will write essays, profiles, travel pieces and articles about the natural world.  We can interpret “nature” loosely – after all, there are no clear boundaries between civilization and nature.  

PHIL 232 Environmental Ethics
An examination of the extent of, limits to, and grounds for individual and collective moral obligations with respect to the 'more-than-human world.' Discusses anthropocentric, zoocentric, biocentric and ecocentric value theories; ecofeminist, deep ecology, and environmental justice perspectives; and/or such topics as biodiversity, climate change, sustainable agriculture, and/or ethics of consumption. This course may include a community engagement/service learning project and required field trips.

POLS 265 Introduction to Environmental Policy
This course examines the different actors, interests, and institutions that aim to govern or regulate the environment and its resources. Students will learn how environmental policy has evolved over time to deal with changing needs and threats, ranging from domestic pollution issues to longer-term threats such as climate change and drought. Much of the course material will focus on environmental policy at the federal level in the US, though students will also look at more local and international efforts to address the global issue of climate change. Throughout the class, we will also examine the societal implications of environmental threats and policy in order to better understand how environmental outcomes and policies affect issues such as inequality, health, and global conflict.

UNIV 290 Topics: City Lab - Intro to Urban Studies
City Lab introduces students to the foundation of Urban Studies, its core lines of inquiry, theoretical interventions, lines of analysis, and debates.  Students will learn these foundations through their participation in the City Lab workshop, where they will deploy ideas and knowledge learned from the course’s core readings.  These readings will serve as the framework for each student’s research project, which will explore a major theme in Urban Studies and apply it to a topic within City Lab’s collective research project.  For more information you can visit:

UNIV 495 Independent Interdisciplinary Senior Project: Urban Studies (by petition)
The senior capstone experience for Independent Interdisciplinary majors who do not complete the capstone experience through one of the academic departments included in the major.

Category II: Natural Sciences

BIO 102 Evolution, Organisms, and Ecology
Includes laboratory. An introduction to the principles and practice of evolutionary biology, population genetics, and ecology. Students will examine topics in natural selection, the modern synthesis, speciation, phylogeny, primary productivity and ecological efficiency.

BIO 290 The Survival Paradox: Organism Development in a Changing Environment
Biology is in the midst of a huge technology revolution, especially in the arenas of Molecular and Cell Biology.  These leaps in technology are allowing us to uncover new layers of complexities in the genes, and in how those genes are inherited and expressed.  It also has us questioning the validity of what we think we know…when there is so much left to understand.  In this course, we will seek to develop a greater understanding of how the environment interacts with developing organisms.  It is especially interesting and timely to consider how the environment influences disease states, mutations, and evolution.  We will explore what is known about how well organisms can adapt to a changing environment.  Some of the literature we examine will consider cases such as temperature change, ocean acidification, disruption in symbiotic relations amongst organisms, and the increasing prevalence of abnormalities caused by interactions between the environment and genes.

BIO 342 Ecology
Includes laboratory. The study of interrelationships between organisms and their environment, emphasizing fundamental concepts in ecology, natural history of local habitats and organisms, the process of ecological research, and current issues of interest in ecology. Prerequisites: BIO 135 (or BIO 101) and BIO 145 (or BIO 102), or permission of instructor.

BIO 390 Aquatic Ecology
Includes laboratory.  Students in this class will learn to describe and discuss the importance of physical, chemical, and biological/ecological properties of aquatic systems.  Emphasis is placed on human interactions with freshwater ecosystems, as well our impacts on those systems.

GEOS 110 Earth and the Environment
Includes laboratory. An introduction to the materials that make up the earth and the interplay between constructive and destructive processes that shape the earth, including plate tectonics. Laboratories include mineral and rock identification, field trips, and topographic map interpretation.

GEOS 125 Introduction to Environmental Science
An introduction to the study of environmental science. Topics include matter, energy, ecosystems, human populations, natural resources, and the impact of human activity on the natural environment. Special attention is given to current environmental problems including air and water pollution, acid rain, stratospheric ozone depletion, climate change, deforestation, and species extinctions. 

GEOS 230 Environmental Geology
An intermediate examination of the processes that influence the physical and chemical nature of the Earth's surface with special attention given to the influence of human actions on the lithosphere, hydrosphere, and atmosphere. Students learn how the risks from natural hazards are assessed and minimized; understand the consequences of natural resource extraction; and consider the sources, transportation, fate, and remediation of waste and pollution in the environment. Real-world examples emphasize the importance of these topics for solving environmental problems.

EFP Approved First-Year Seminars:

Category I: Social Sciences/Humanities/Arts

Campus Sustainability 101
In a finite world, the needs of our ever-growing population and rampant consumption strain the resources of the earth and threaten the environment. Due to their complex and global nature, modern environmental problems like climate change, water scarcity, or mass extinctions can be overwhelming and really, really scary. Many individuals who care about both other people and the planet around them are left wondering: “what am I to do?” Fortunately, the practice of sustainability – which balances the needs of people today with those of people in the future – can provide solutions to these challenging problems.

This seminar will explore both the theoretical concepts explicit in different definitions of sustainability as well as consider how to put these ideas into practice. Because there is no universally accepted definition of sustainability, students will critically examine crucial ideas central to the concept of “sustain” (as in “to make last”) through readings and discussion to ultimately to build a class definition over the course of the semester. Examples of these ideas include: markers of environmental quality; the role of social justice; and organizational principles of systems thinking. The seminar also includes an applied aspect in which students will be able to incorporate sustainability practices into their own lives while also learning about how to participate in positive change at a local, regional, and even global scale.

Whether you take it as a blessing or a curse, there can be no doubt that we live during interesting times. One thing that sets DePauw graduates apart, though, is their ability to think critical, creatively, and compassionately, and therefore do what needs to be done. As the foundation of a DePauw education, this seminar will both challenge and support students in a balance that will helps them grow into the person they want to be.

Climate Change and Philosophy
Climate change poses significant philosophical problems. For example, it poses problems in epistemology or the theory of knowledge: what do we know about climate and how do we know it? How do we explain the gulf between the scientific "consensus" on climate change and public skepticism? And so on. Moreover, it raises problems about who we are (e.g., what responsibilities do we have and why?) and what it means to be an educated person in the 21st century. Can we learn to imagine living well yet sustainably, what will we need to know in order to live well in a climate changed world? The course will introduce students to research from a wide range of fields and in both the physical and social sciences and responses to the climate crisis of many forms. But our primary focus throughout will be on climate as posing existential questions each of us needs to grapple with: who am I and what should I do given the world as it is?

Dig In!  Foodways, Sustainable Agriculture, and Justice
This course offers the opportunity for students to build their knowledge-base about foodways and to engage in environmental justice work. Foodways is an interdisciplinary concept that refers to the cultural and economic practices involved in the production and consumption of food. Along with the study of foodways, students will explore practices of sustainable agriculture through experiential learning projects at DePauw’s Ullem Campus Farm and Center for Sustainability.

EFP Recommended First-Year Seminars:

These seminars may be EFP approved by student petition.  The petition process is simple and can be completed after a student arrives on campus in the fall.  Courses that have not already been designated as satisfying the Environmental Fellows Program course requirements may be approved for such credit by petition if a substantial portion of the student’s work in the course has an environmental focus.  If the course is not designed to include this much environmental content, this may be achieved through flexibility in the topical focus of student’s assignments, and/or by assigning additional reading and/or writing.  

All About Sushi: Japanese Food, Culture, and Society
Sushi is now the most widely enjoyed Japanese food around the world. Originally a method to preserve fish, it has evolved into an elaborate global cuisine--with variations such as buffalo chicken and even ice cream sushi!

 But sushi is more than just “fun food.” We will discover, in fact, that the study of sushi introduces us to many issues important to understanding present-day Japan: from the politics of rice production and the ethics of tuna fishing to the economics of tourism and the technology of robotics.

As our in-class exercises develop your ability to read, think and write critically, you will come to view both sushi and Japan in increasingly complex ways. You will also be honing academic skills important to all your courses at DePauw.

Our final exam “poster session” will bring together, in a lively and informative way, everything that we have learned. Throughout the semester, you will work with me to develop an original research question, formulate your ideas, design a poster and polish your communication skills—everything needed for a successful presentation. (And, yes, a sushi reception will be provided.)

Animal Ethics: Ancient and Modern
Do animals possess consciousness? A sense of justice? Is it ethical for animals to be killed for food? For religion? For entertainment? These and other questions of animal ethics, still debated today, go back to ancient Greece and Rome. Thinkers and philosophers from Aristotle to Augustine debated the rationality of animals, the ethics of vegetarianism, and the use of animals for work and food. In this course, we will examine how some of the great thinkers of Greece and Rome dealt with questions of animal ethics, and then compare that to how such questions are debated today. This class will encourage and facilitate class discussion, and will help students develop skills that will be important throughout your time at DePauw: how to read and analyze complex texts, how to make effective arguments in writing, and how to talk about your ideas.

City Lab
City Lab is designed to introduce students to the fundamentals of complex systems theory. Students will learn key concepts, such as feedback loops, thermodynamics, resilience, overshoot, oscillation, emergence, collapse, panarchy, and disruptive properties. Students will apply complexity thinking to the study of 21st century urbanism through participation in a research workshop called City Lab ( During Fall 2018 the workshop is focusing on the topic of Smart Cities and Machine Learning/Analytics/Artificial Intelligence. Students apply their learning about complexity thinking in a research project about Smart Cities and 21st century urbanism. By the end of the semester students will have gained facility with complexity thinking, gained insights to the challenges of 21st century urbanism, and will have undertaken a college level research project. 

Contemporary Art and Activism
What is the role of art in social movements and activism? This course will consider various visual strategies of dissent developed by artists and activists in the United States from the 1960s to the present. Beginning with artworks produced in support of the Civil Rights Movement, this course will move on to consider the visual cultures of the Chicano Movement, the Women’s Liberation Movement, and contemporary visual communication around LGBTQIA rights, climate change, gun control, and immigration. The course will center around themes of visibility, censorship, disruption, and collaboration. Students will have the option of producing a final creative project in support of a social movement that they are aligned with. 

Portable Power
Battery powered gadgets are ubiquitous in our society, from technology as small as hearing aids or as large as electric cars. Different applications of portable power have different desires and demands that have led to innovations and disasters. For example, lithium ion batteries revolutionized the cell phone yet, when poorly manufactured, have gone up in flames. Understanding the desires, demands, value and impact of batteries suggests a liberal arts approach.

In this course, we will look at the key scientific advances in the evolution of the modern battery and investigate cutting edge questions in today’s battery research. This will take us on an intellectual journey that will touch on the lives of past and current scientists; ethical dilemmas, economic challenges and political intrigue; as well as on an investigation of critical elements of the periodic table required in both batteries and the gadgets utilizing this portable power.

 Through our focus on portable power we will learn to parse lay and technical resources, strengthen our skills as both oral and written communicators, and practice thinking deeply and critically. To better understand the scientific aspects of the portable power we will build some electrochemical cells in the laboratory and dissect a few common batteries.

This course is appropriate for anyone interested in a broader understanding of how portable power was developed and current challenges and opportunities, from a variety of perspectives, scientific, economic, political, ethical, environmental and more.