Earth, Society & Environmental Sustainability Major
Degree Requirements

The ESES program offers a unique combination of structure and flexibility not found in most programs at the University of Illinois. Since most students are not accustomed to the level of choice we present our majors, the ESES program employs three advisors ready to assist you in the customization of your degree. Our advisors each teach courses within the major, and have extensive knowledge of the University of Illinois campus, courses, student resources, and more. They are here to help you make sense of our degree requirements and select courses that will develop your potential and nurture your curiosity.

Outline of the ESES Bachelor of Science in Liberal Arts and Sciences

If you enrolled before Spring 2011, please see the alternate requirements. ESES students take a total of 49 to 59 hours in the major.


 15 - 18

One Concentration

  • Society and Environment (SAE) OR
  • Science of the Earth System (SES)


ESES Introductory Core: Required Courses

  • ESE 200: Earth's Physical Systems
  • ESE 379: Intro to GIS Systems

 12 - 14

ESES Introductory Core: Breadth Coursework
Four introductory courses selected from four different categories.

 9 - 12

ESES Advanced Courses
Five advanced courses from the approved list, three must be from the ESE or ENSU rubric.

Choose a concentration: either SAE or SES

After studying cross-disciplinary introductory classes, ESES students choose to focus in one of two concentrations, depending on their developing interests.

SAE: Society and the Environment,
15-18 hours

It is also recommended, but not required, that SAE students take CHEM 101 or 102.*Substitutions may be made with advisor approval.

The SAE concentration offers a balanced cross-disciplinary social science/humanities education, emphasizing the political, socio-cultural, economic, and historical dimensions of sustainability. Students in this track might be interested in focusing on these areas:

  • Environmental Policy
  • Environmental Economics
  • Studies in Science and Technology
  • Social Valuation of Environmental Systems
  • Social Studies of the Physical Environment
  • Environmental History
  • Social Movements and the Environment
  • Perceptions of Environmental Risk
  • Environmental Ethics
SES: Science of the Earth System,
16-18 hours

It is also recommended, but not required, that SES students take ECON 102. *Substitutions may be made with advisor approval.

The SES concentration is a rigorous scientific program in the geophysical and ecological sciences focused on the complexity and interactions of natural systems. Students in this track might be interested in focusing on these areas:

  • Water/Hydrology
  • Ecology and Ecosystems
  • Data and Modeling
  • Engineering and Management Practices
  • Climate and Global Change
  • Biogeochemical Cycles
  • Types of Pollution and Their Sources
  • Remote Sensing
  • Sustainability Applications of GIS
  • Green Chemistry
ESES Required Core, 7 hours

Both of the below courses are required. ESE 200 is a general introduction into sustainability and the various topics covered by our major. GEOG 379 introduces students to the software and practices behind viewing data on a map with ArcGIS. Typically, ESE 200 is only offered Fall semesters, while GEOG 379 is available Fall and Spring semesters.

ESES Introductory Core: Click on a heading to view approved classes for each ESES foci. Students take one approved introductory course from at least four of the following five areas:

ESE 170: Nature Religion

ANTH 278: Climate Change & Civilization

ATMS 100: Introduction to Meteorology

GEOG 105: The Digital Earth

ESE 111: Emergence of Life








Environment & the Human Response 

ESE 170: Nature Religion
GEOG 106: Geographies of Globalization
ACE 210: Environmental Economics ACE 255: Economics of Food and Environmental Justice
ACE 251: The World Food Economy
ENGL 274: Lit & Social Issues, Energy Literature
HIST 202: American Environmental History
HIST 282: Nature and American Culture
SOC 160: Global Ineq and Social Change
RLST 270: Religion, Ethics, Environment
Sustainability, Policy, & Global Change
ANTH 278: Climate Change & Civilization
ATMS 140: Climate and Global Change
GEOL 208: History of the Earth System
CPSC 215: The Prairie & Bioenergy
NPRE 101: Energy Sources
NPRE 201: Energy Systems
PS 224: Politics of the National Parks
PS 225: Environmental Politics
LA 250: Environmental Site Analysis
SOC 270: Population Issues
Earth's Physical Systems, Resources, & Hazards
ATMS 100: Introduction to Meteorology
ATMS 120: Severe and Hazardous Weather
ATMS 201: General Meteorology
GEOG 103: Earth’s Physical System
GEOG 222: Big Rivers of the World
GEOL 100: Planet Earth
GEOL 103: Planet Earth QR II
GEOL 104: Geology of the National Parks
GEOL 107: Physical Geology
GEOL 117: The Oceans
GEOL 118: Natural Disasters
Visualizing the Earth System
GEOG 105: The Digital Earth
Earth's Biosphere & Ecology
ESE 111: Emergence of Life
ESE 126: Extinction: Dinosaurs to Dodos
GEOL 143: History of Life
IB 100: Biological Sciences
IB 103: Introduction to Plant Biology
IB 105: Environmental Biology
IB 107: Global Warming, Biofuels, Food
IB 150: Organismal & Evolutionary Biol
MCB 150: Molec & Cellular Basis of Life
UP 205: Ecology & Environmental Sustainability

ESES Advanced Courses, 15-20 Hours 
A minimum of five (5) 300- and 400-level courses, from the approved list are required. At least three of these five advanced courses must be listed or cross-listed as an ESE or ENSU course. Advanced courses will in most circumstances count toward the LAS requirement of 21 hours of 300- or 400-level courses overall, and 12 hours of 300- or 400-level courses in the major. It is strongly recommended that students complete the LAS requirement with 21 hours of 300- or 400-level courses related to the ESE curriculum. Please note that your DARS report will not show these requirements as being met until you complete a Major Plan of Study with your advisor.

Looking for hands-on experience in a class? Consider ESE 401: ESE Capstone. ESE 401 offers a pathway for students to receive course credit for a senior thesis or internship experience. Make an appointment with Dr. Jonathan Tomkin to learn more about ESE 401.

ESE 311: Environmental Issues Today

ENSU 303: Sustainable Business I

ENSU 302: Air Pollution to Global Change

ESE/GEOG 380: GIS II: Spatial Prob. Solving

Environment & the Human Response
ESE 311: Environmental Issues Today
ESE 360: Environmental Writing
ESE 381: Environmental Perspectives
ESE 389: Environ. & Sustainable Field Expedition
ENSU 301: Soc Impacts Weather & Climate
GEOG 350: Sustainability and the City
GEOG 384: Population Geography
GEOG 455: Geography of Sub-Saharan Africa
GEOG 495: Democracy and Environment
GEOG 496: Climate and Social Vulnerability
GEOG 483: Urban Geography
AGCM 330: Environmental Communications
AGCM 430: Communication in Environmental Social Movements
CHLH 469: Environmental Health
ENG 315: Learning in Community (Approved Sections Only)
ENGL 476: Topics in Lit & Environment, American Literature and the Sea
LA 314: History of World Landscapes
LA 430: Children and Nature
LA 450: Ecology of Land Restoration
NRES 340: Environmental Social Sciences Research Methods
NRES 472: Environmental Psychology
SOC 447: Environmental Sociology
Sustainability, Policy, and Global Change
ENSU 303: Sustainable Business I
ENSU 310: Renewable & Alternative Energy

ENSU 410: Sustainable Organizations
ESE 465: Transp and Sustainability
ESE 466: Environmental Policy
ESE 481: Intl Environ Cooperation
ESE 482: Challenges of Sustainability
ATMS 307: Climate Change Processes
ATMS 447: Climate Change Assessment
ATMS 449: Biogeochemical Cycles
ACE 310: Natural Resource Economics
ACE 406: Environmental Law and Policy
ACE 411: Environment and Development
CPSC 336: Tomorrow's Environment
CPSC 415: Bioenergy Crops
CPSC 431: Plants and Global Change
LA 370: Environmental Sustainability
NPRE 480: Energy and Security
NRES 325: Natural Resource Policy Management
NRES 424: U.S. Environment, Justice & Policy
NRES 426: Renewable Energy Policy
NRES 439: Environment and Sustainable Development
TSM 311: Humanity in the Food Web
UP 405: Watershed Ecology and Planning
UP 446: Sustainable Planning Seminar
UP 456: Sustainable Planning Workshop
UP 480: Sustainable Design Principles
Earth's Physical Systems, Resources, & Hazards
ENSU 302: Air Pollution to Global Change
ESE 320: Water Planet, Water Crisis
ESE 333: Earth Materials and the Environment
ESE 411: Geomorphology
ESE 445: Earth Resources Sustainability
ESE 470: Introduction to Hydrogeology

ESE 486 Environmental Consulting
ATMS 420: Atmospheric Chemistry
GEOG 401: Watershed Hydrology
GEOG 406: Fluvial Geomorphology
GEOG 408: Watershed Analysis
GEOL 380: Environmental Geology
GEOL 450: Probing Earth's Interior
GEOL 451: Env. & Exploration Geophysics
GEOL 460: Geochemistry
ABE 436: Renewable Energy Systems
CEE 330: Environmental Engineering
CHEM 360: Chemistry of the Environment
MSE 489: Matl Select for Sustainability
NRES 351: Environmental Chemistry
Visualizing the Earth System
ESE/GEOG 380: GIS II: Spatial Prob. Solving
ESE 421: Earth System Modeling
ATMS 305: Computing and Data Analysis
GEOG 371: Spatial Analysis
GEOG 412: Geospatial Tech & Society
GEOG 468: Biological Modeling
GEOG 476: Applied GIS to Environ Studies
GEOG 477: Introduction to Remote Sensing
GEOG 460: Analysis and Interpretation of Aerial Photos
GEOG 479: Advanced Topics in GIS
NRES 427: Modeling Natural Resources
NRES 454: GIS in Natural Resource Management
UP 418: GIS for Planners
Earth's Biosphere & Ecology
ESE 439: Biogeography
ANTH 378: Plants and Their Uses
HORT 430: Children & Nature
HORT 456: Sustainable Landscape Design
IB 405: Ecological Genetics
IB 440: Plants and Global Change
IB 444: Insect Ecology
IB 445: Chemical Ecology
IB 447: Field Ecology
IB 449: Limnology
IB 451: Conservation Biology
IB 452: Ecosystem Ecology
IB 453: Community Ecology
IB 461: Ornithology
IB 485: Environmental Toxicology
NRES 348: Fish and Wildlife Ecology
NRES 419: Environment and Plant Ecosystems
NRES 420: Restoration Ecology
NRES 431: Plants and Global Change


  1. A minimum of 120 hours of course work is required for graduation, including twelve hours of advanced (400 level or approved 300 level) courses that must be taken on this campus.
  2. All foreign language requirements for the College of LAS must be satisfied.
  3. A Major Plan of Study form must be completed and submitted to the LAS Student Affairs Office, ideally by the end of the fifth semester (60-75 hours).
  4. Study abroad courses may be substituted for major and minor requirements with approval of advisor.
  5. There are two ESES minor options, the ESES minor and the Environmental Fellows Program minor.
  6. Double majoring is generally allowed, as per the College of Liberal Arts and Science’s guidelines, with the following exception: Undergraduate students may not major in both ESES and in a major directed by one of the three departments (Geology, Geography, and Atmospheric Science) that make up the School without the explicit approval of the ESES advisor.
  7. Departmental Distinction: Students who maintain grade point averages of at least 3.3 in all courses within the major and who fulfill the Capstone requirement with a faculty-guided individual research project are recommended for graduation with distinction.
  8. Graduate programs may require additional coursework. All students wishing to attend graduate school in any field should discuss necessary supplementary coursework with their advisor as early as possible.