Looking to engage with environmental justice topics in the classroom? Check out these courses! This course listing is updated on a regular basis by the EJ team of associates. Last update: 11/8/18.

Sustainable Development and Conservation Through Entrepreneurial Collaboration: Madagascar

The course will meet in BH 240 on Thursdays from 6:15-9:15PM. This course focuses on sustainable development in rural subsistence economies, using Madagascar as case study. Students from diverse disciplines are challenged to develop and assess the feasibility of projects that can have positive impact on communities constrained by poverty traps. The span of projects includes topics such as forest conservation and use, nutrition, health, food security, clean water, education, and bottom up economic growth. Students in Humanities, Social Sciences, Business, Design, Engineering, Physical Sciences, Law, Social Work, Economics, Political Science, Public Health and others use their different perspectives to search for answers. Teamwork and peer teaching are central to the course. Competitively evaluated projects will be field tested in Madagascar. Student teams travel to Madagascar in May and work with the Missouri Botanical Garden Community Conservation Program to adapt projects to conflicting environmental, cultural, economic, and political factors.

Lab Fee: Project teams selected to go to Madagascar will be assessed a lab fee at the time their participation in the trip is confirmed and travel arrangements have been made. The lab fee covers the cost of airfare, in country transportation, and approximately three weeks of in-country lodging and food. Prerequisite: Students submit their application for consideration to the CEL. Students are notified when the application is available. There is limited enrollment. If accepted, the CEL will formally enroll students in this course. Poster board sessions for students taking the trip occur in the following fall term. Students may not withdraw from this course after the third week of February.

Professor McClean Parks

Topics in Politics: Environmental Justice

This course explores the history and foundations of the environmental justice movement along with current issues and methods of analysis. Policy responses to environmental injustices will be discussed and the claims of injustices evaluated. Students will work with a community-based organization in the St. Louis region to explore a local case of environmental justice.

Professor Krummenacher

Recipes for Respect: Black Foodways in the United States

This course will illustrate the ways that African Americans have interacted with the farmed environment, domestic service, and cookery to gain social mobility and civil rights. At least one site/community/restaurant space in St. Louis exemplary of the issues surrounding Black foodways will be examined as a way to understand food-its production, its preparation and its distribution-as expressive culture and means of social justice.

Professor Zafar

Sophomore Seminar: Slow Violence: An Introduction to Political Ecology

This sophomore seminar is as an introduction to the related fields of political ecology and environmental history. Students will learn how to use the tools of political economy and historical inquiry to understand how environmental change and conflict are informed by political, economic, and social dimensions. While hurricanes and forest fires serve as spectacular symbols for an ecosystem gone wrong, it is the pervasive slow violence of the unspectacular, the invisible, that seeps into the daily lives of millions across the globe. From toxic waste deposits creating cancer clusters to the long-term effects of consistent heat exposure, the environmental consequences of human agency are played out in the deteriorating bodies of the poor and in the slow and steady contamination of the landscape.

Professor Bivar

From Hazard to Catastrophe: Case Studies in Environmental Disasters

From earthquakes, volcanoes, landslides, tornadoes, hurricanes, flooding, drought, to climate change all areas in the United States are at risk from at least one hazardous earth process. In the class we will study the social aspects of environmental management, policy, and disaster response that cause environmental hazards to become catastrophes. Each week we will cover a different natural hazard and use case studies from archaeological and historical sources to evaluate which aspects of management and response discourage or encourage the hazard to become a catastrophe.

Professor Rankin


The following courses provide foundational knowledge and skills that are helpful for diving further into environmental justice topics and issues.

Beyond the Evidence

In this class, we will explore how values, beliefs, emotions, and identity shape how we receive and process information and make decisions. We will consider how these factors matter more than scientific evidence when it comes to individual choices or policies we support. We will explore themes of worldview, cognitive linguistics and framing, cognitive dissonance, risk perception, empathy, habit changes, bungles in messaging, and difficult dialoguing through the examples of climate change and vaccination. Course activities will consist of reading, some online research, reflective journaling at home, and engaging in conversation during class. There are no pre-requisites, but the class is designed to target upper level students with interests in the environment, sustainability, public health, and pre-health.

Professor Pardini

Environmental Problem Solving

This course aims to provide students with the opportunity to develop and apply problem-solving skills in the context of environmental challenges. Students will learn basic frameworks of decision-making through readings and role-play. Through the role-play students will grapple with the perspectives of multiple stakeholders, the interplay of science and policy, and the ambiguity and uncertainty inherent in decision-making processes. Enrollment is managed by the instructor and you will be automatically wait listed for this section. Please make sure you join the wait list to indicate interest.

Professor Martin

For students interested in environmental issues – natural science, social science and policy.This course aims to provide students with the writing skills they need to be succesful in the environmental field once they graduate.In doing so students will examine environmental issues and decision making processes by examining data and facts underlying positions and decisions. They will explore the role of audience, purpose and author angle of vision as they examine the role of multiple stakeholders in environmental issues and processes.Students will also be exposed to different types of writing used in environmental studies professions.When the course includes a service learning component, students will be exposed to the types of writing that are necessary in environmental careers and in environmental non-profits and governmental agencies in particular.

Professor Martin

Busch Stadium. The Intersection of Skinker and Forest Park Parkway, in front of Kayak’s. The Ferguson Quik-Trip. The MUNY in Forest Park. The ruins of a Trolley Pavilion in Wellston. The Metrolink Stop at the Galleria. An Empty Lot in East St. Louis where a theater was burned a hundred years ago. The Swipe-Card Access Panel on Your Dormitory. This course will invite students to engage such sites-and many others-as points of departure for an exploration of how we as St. Louisans live our racialized lives. We will focus on places where racialized experience is at once densely concentrated and not fully revealed–hiding in plain sight. For instance, the daily encounters in front of Kayak’s take on deeper significance when one considers that this site is the fraught boundary between St. Louis County and St. Louis City in a racialized break dating back to the end of Reconstruction. The course gives special attention to the deep structures of history, law, culture and politics that an intensive engagement with such sites makes accessible. But we are not only interested in the lessons of history: we seek to learn from direct encounters with the physical sites and their local contexts. We will take several trips to sites in the St. Louis region. Readings will include materials on racialized urban experience and more specific texts related to course sites, and will include visual and material culture. Students will develop individual projects on their own sites under instructors’ supervision, and will interact with other faculty who have also been engaged in site-specific research on segregation, some of whom will serve as guest contributors for our class sessions. The course aspires to discover and cultivate new ways of seeing and understanding.25 students will be admitted into the course. Sophomore standing or permission by instructors required for enrollment. Some field trips may extend beyond the end of class time until 6:30 p.m. Students will be notified of the field trip schedule well in advance.

Professor Kolk, Professor Bernstein

Sustainability Exchange: Community and University Praticums

The Sustainability Exchange will bring together students working in trans-disciplinary teams to tackle real-world energy, environmental, and sustainability problems through an experiential form of education. Students will participate in projects with clients and partners on- or off-campus, developed with and guided by faculty advisors drawn from across the University, with the intention of delivering an applicable end-product that explores “wicked” problems requiring innovative methods and solutions. These projects matter to the client or partner. The team-based project will be complemented by a seminar that will explore the field of design and design thinking through problem-solving strategies and methodologies drawn from a wide range of creative practices, including design, engineering and science, as well as contemporary topics in energy, environment, and sustainability. Students will draw on these topics to influence their projects. This course is open to all undergraduates, although preference is given to juniors and seniors.

Professor LowryValkoHellmuth, Scandrett-LeathermanRothEhrhardWilliamsKrummenacherMedleyCosgrove Payne

For a more comprehensive listing of environmental justice-related courses, as well as sustainability and climate-related courses, click here. To register for any course listed above, simply search the title at https://courses.wustl.edu/Semester/Listing.aspx