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Environmental Studies

Environmental Studies

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  Welcome to Fall 2023!

Dear ENVS students,

On behalf of the environmental studies faculty and staff, I welcome you to the Environmental Studies Program at CSUSM. Whether you are a new or returning student, we are delighted and honored you chose to work with us to pursue your educational goals. This is an inspiring time in environmental studies here at CSUSM and worldwide.

You are entering an incredibly dynamic field where you can address some of the world’s most pressing challenges. Globally, we have witnessed dramatic changes in our daily lives because of climate change. The record snowfall the Sierra Nevada received this winter was coupled with a summer where Phoenix recorded 31 consecutive days of 110 degrees F or higher, Lahaina Town was engulfed by a wildfire brought on by excessive heat, high winds, and invasive grasses, and the first tropical storm to make landfall in San Diego County 84 years. These events are reminders of the critical and meaningful work environmental studies majors engage in daily because we do more than explore how the world is changing; we imagine solutions to those pressing problems with collaboration and innovation. We also recognize that addressing these issues is far too big for any one individual. Making change requires communication and cooperation – as Neomi Kline argues, “to change everything, we need everyone.”

Our new students bring a wonderful diversity of backgrounds – across disciplines, experiences, interests, geography, and other dimensions. As incoming and returning students, you are now part of our BA or Minor program and part of a larger ENVS family working to create more sustainable futures. A wealth of opportunities are provided by students, staff, and faculty in other programs at CSUSM. I hope you will take advantage of this by getting to know people across our department, the university, and some of our community partners. These resources and opportunities can seem overwhelming at the beginning of your academic career (and even as a third- or fourth-year student). So, there are a few things I encourage you to do, no matter where you are in the process of being an environmental studies major.

First, get involved with research and extracurricular activities in our or other departments – several excellent programs exist. During the academic year, our department and the college have different workshops that will help you apply to grad school and other professional matters. You can also participate in the student-led Environmental Stewards Association. If you need any information on the clubs and/or how to become a member, please get in touch with the faculty advisor Professor Shannon Switzer Swanson ( or the club president Shyane Masters ( With an ongoing series of events, the Sustainability Program is a great place to explore what the university is doing related to sustainability. The Career Center is also a great place to learn about and explore your options after college, and we can’t forget the Office of Academic Advising, who can help guide you through your GE requirements. The Cougar Care Network is your connection to resources, advocacy, and support for students dealing with personal, academic, financial or other challenges that may adversely affect their academic success and/or collegiate experience. Please do not hesitate to reach out to them as they are a great group of staff always there to help. There are many other clubs, offices, and center to provide you a meaningful CSUSM experience. And finally, please know that my door is open. If you are an ENVS major or Sustainability minor and want to talk with me individually or are not in a degree program and are interested in learning more about what we offer, I would be happy to meet. Your input matters, and it helps me do my job better.

I am pleased to welcome you to this new academic year – I hope you know we are thrilled to learn from you and with you.

I wish you a wonderful and exciting year!

- Gabriel Valle, ENVS Program Director

The Program

The Environmental Studies Program offers students two interdisciplinary options: 1) a Baccalaurate degree with broad training in the physical and life sciences, social sciences, policy and law, and the arts and humanities; and 2) a Minor in Sustainability.  

The B.A. program introduces students to a wide range of research methods and techniques used in environmental careers from field techniques to geographic information systems.  There are extensive opportunities on and off-campus for internships and field experiences providing hands-on learning and real world training.  

If you are a student considering Environmental Studies, you will find  that our majors are able to: 

  • Describe the major physical processes affecting environmental resources. 
  • Explain and analyze the impacts of human activity on the environment
  • Critically analyze environmental problems and solutions from multiple perspectives including environmental justice. 
  • Describe the process of environmental policy development locally, nationally, and globally.
  • Evaluate environmental issues from an ethical and aesthetic standpoint  
  • Collect, organize, interpret, write about and present research and information about historical and contemporary environmental issues. 

ENVS FieldtripMany of our graduates find work in environmental education, parks and recreation, environmental planning, restoration, and management, and sustainability.  They can be found in the private, non-profit, and public sectors.  The degree is also a great way to prepare for graduate school in a wide range of fields.  Check out the Student Video about the ENVS Program and Welcome to the ENVS Family!

Kudos, Props, and Other Program News 

Professor Shannon SwansonThe Program welcomes Professor Shannon Switzer Swanson.  Professor Swanson is a social ecologist focusing on community-based ocean resource management.

Professor Valle's new book is now available.  Gardening at tGardening at the Margins book coverhe Margins was published by University of Arizona Press.

His article   "Reframing the Sustainable Diet Narrative: Shifting Diets by Confronting Systemic Racism" is included in The Routledge Handbook of Sustainable Diets edited by Kathleen Kevany and Paolo Prosperi. New York, NY: Routledge.

Here are some of Professor Valle's other work in case you are interested:

  1. "The Past in the Present: What our Ancestors Taught us about Surviving Pandemics." Food Ethics 6(7).
  2.  “Learning to Be Human Again: Being and Becoming in the Home Garden Commons.” Environment and Planning E: Nature and Space.

Juliana Goodlaw Morris has an article in press with The Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education, titled "No Sustainability without Justice: An Anthology on Racial Equity and Social Justice."

Professor Simokat was named the CSUSM President's Outstanding Lecturer!  AND, she received a Research, Scholarship, and Creative Activities Grant for her Pollinator research!!  And she just submitted another research grant with Geography Professor and Steering Committee Member Elizabeth Ridder. Congratulations Christina!!!

Professor Guthey published an article in The California Geographer focused on the Sustainable Food Project on campus and titled "Notes from a Field: Reflections on Space, Gardening, and Student Learning in Southern California"

Professors Valle and Guthey recently received a grant from the Center for California Studies for a research project on Redlining and Food Apartheid.

They also are continuing their work along with Professor Matthew Atherton and Professor Jill Weigt in the Social Sciences Program on their CSU Chancellor's Office-funded project to promote food literacy and support Student Basic Needs on campus! 

If you haven't done so already, check out Professor Valle's other book:

Gabriel Valle's Book

***Winner of Two Awards!***

2017 Best Edited Volume by the Society for the Study of Food and Society

2018 Essential Reading by the American Library Association

Congratulations Professor Valle!