Skip Navigation

Climate Change Concentration

Wind turbines over vast landscape

Many world leaders, scientists and analysts agree that climate change is the most significant challenge the world faces today. The Climate Change Concentration lets students engage in an interdisciplinary exploration of this critical topic. Through two internships, students immerse themselves in work that is integral to sustaining life on Earth, investigating the exciting connections among key issues, including:

  • the science of global climate change, including atmospheric physics and radiative transfer
  • socioeconomic and historical factors affecting climate change, including the Industrial Revolution and world economic models
  • political and governmental aspects of climate change, such as the Kyoto Protocol and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change
  • psychological factors affecting personal behavior, including political affiliation and education 
  • cultural reflections of and influences on global climate change, including literature and the arts


The concentration is limited to 15 students per class year. Sophomores, juniors and Ada Comstock Scholars are encouraged to apply. Selection of concentrators is based on academic performance, intentionality and commitment, and diversity of the cohort.

Gateway Course

Choose one:

  • ENV 100 Environment and Sustainability: Notes from the Field (1 credit/fall)
  • LSS 100 Landscape, Environment, Design (2 credits/spring)

The gateway course may be taken prior to admittance to the concentration.

Academic Core

In consultation with your adviser, you must choose four classes from among the many climate-related courses offered within the Five Colleges. Courses must span at least two of the three divisions: humanities; social sciences and history; and natural sciences and engineering. Normally, it is expected that a student will take at least two of the core courses in semesters after admittance to the concentration.

Capstone Course

ENX 301: Environmental Concentration Capstone: Climate Change

This seminar course brings concentrators together as a cohort to engage in a community and team-based capstone project. It is designed to complement the 100- and 200-level Smith courses related to climate by providing a deeper experience.

Practical Experiences

Practical experiences are an integral part of the Climate Change Concentration; they provide opportunities to integrate the knowledge gained from various courses in support of work related to the environment and the concentration, and to learn from and critically reflect upon those experiences outside of the classroom in a way that enhances your course of study at Smith.

Practical experiences may include internships and paid or volunteer work that aligns with your topic of climate change. To fulfill your requirements, you must complete two distinct practical experiences.

Practical Experiences

Students will complete two different practical experiences to fulfill the requirements for the concentration. Each internship, volunteer or work experience must meet the following minimum requirements:

  • Consist of 100 hours of work—roughly equivalent to a semester-long campus commitment or a 2.5-week full-time internship. (In some situations, a work experience may be concomitant with academic study that bears credit. The work component should be distinct and, on its own, satisfy the 100-hour minimum.)
  • Focus on substantive, content-based work.
  • Occur after your arrival at Smith.
  • Be approved by your concentration adviser.

Note: If Praxis funding is used to support the experience, there may be requirements in addition to those outlined here.

Receiving Credit

To receive credit for your practical experience, you must:

  1. Receive preapproval from your concentration adviser using the Practical Experience Approval Form. (If you already completed a practical experience before entering the Environmental Concentration, you may be eligible to receive credit for one experience. Instructions on retroactive practicum experiences are below).
  2. Have your practicum supervisor complete the Supervisor Evaluation Form. Then meet with your concentration adviser to discuss your experience and sign the form.
  3. Participate in the Concentration Reflection Program (dinners, meetings, retreats, etc.) during both your junior and senior years.

Retroactive Practicum Experiences

With your adviser's approval, a practical experience completed before entering the Climate Change Concentration may be accepted provided that it consisted of at least 100 hours and took place after your senior year of high school and within two years of matriculating at Smith. Please consult your concentration adviser, and then document your experience by completing the Practical Experience Approval Form retroactively with your concentration adviser.

A deadline for submitting this paperwork to Joanne Benkley will be communicated to you after you have been accepted into the concentration.

Advisory Committee

Concentration Directors

Robert Newton

Professor of Geosciences

James Lowenthal

Professor of Astronomy

Faculty Advisers

Jesse Bellemare

Assistant Professor of Biological Sciences

Nathanael Fortune

Professor of Physics

Daniel Gardner

Professor of History

Alice Hearst

Professor of Government

Danielle Ignace

Assistant Professor of Biological Sciences

Amy Rhodes

Associate Professor of Geosciences

Susan Stratton Sayre

Assistant Professor of Economics

Gregory White

Professor of Government


Fill out the Declation Form when you first meet with your concentration adviser. This will allow the concentration to show up in Banner and makes your participation official with the college.

In early spring of your senior year, you are required to submit a completed Concentration Checklist, signed by your adviser, indicating that you have completed all concentration requirements. You will not receive credit for the concentration without submitting this form to Joanne Benkley.

Practical Experiences

Prior to your practical experience, complete and discuss the Practical Experience Approval Form with your concentration adviser before submitting it to Joanne Benkley.

Complete the upper portion of the Supervisor Evaluation Form and give it to your supervisor at the beginning of your internship. Submit a completed form to Joanne Benkley once your internship has finished.

How to Apply

You may apply to the concentration in your sophomore or junior year. The deadline to apply is Friday, March 10, 2017.

Statement of Interest

In 200 to 300 words, explain why you would like to participate in the Climate Change Concentration, including your response to these questions in the statement:

  • How will the concentration fit in with your overall Smith experience?
  • How will the concentration connect to your future work or academic goals?

Required Courses or Electives Completed

List any required and elective courses you have already completed toward the Climate Change Concentration.

Practical Experience

For each, please include location, supervisor and a brief description and dates.


Along with this application, please send your "unofficial" transcript from BannerWeb to


Center for the Environment
Smith College
Wright Hall 010
Northampton, MA 01060
Phone: 413-585-3951
Assistant Director:
Joanne Benkley