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Environmental Science & Policy

Two Smith students stand in tall grass and take specimen samples

The need has never been greater for individuals who can address increasingly complex environmental issues. The Environmental Science and Policy (ES&P) Program seeks to produce future leaders with interdisciplinary analysis and problem-solving skills. ES&P majors work in teams to address sustainability projects on campus or with local community partners. During the summer as well as the academic year, students can conduct research with the ES&P program faculty whose work spans the natural sciences, social sciences and humanities. During the summer, ES&P also supports students participating in the NOAA College-Supported Internship Program.


The Bell Jars: Lyman Conservatory and Sylvia Plath’s Botanical Imagination exhibit

Exhibit opening. ES&P is a co-sponsor of this exhibit developed by Professor Colin Hoag, which focuses on the botanical contexts of Plath's feminist thinking and the history of botany at Smith College that made it possible.

A Skill You Didn't Know You Needed to Know: Concepts of Environmental and Species Modeling

What is a “model,” anyway? In this first of two workshops, ES&P major Kaila Frazer ’24 will begin to answer this question, share how scientists use models to understand climate change and species habitats, and build towards doing some modeling together.  An ES&P Lunchbag. Lunch provided.

A Skill You Didn't Know You Needed to Know: Hands on Environmental and Species Modeling

In this second of two workshops, ES&P major Kaila Frazer ’24 will lead the group in creating their own models. An ES&P Lunchbag. Lunch provided.

Events Calendar

Visit the Center for the Environment’s Events Calendar for even more events of interest taking place at Smith, within the Five Colleges, and in the local community. 

Requirements & Courses

By the time they graduate, Environmental Science and Policy majors should be able to:

  • Understand interconnected earth, ecological, and human/societal phenomena and processes that influence human-environment interactions
  • Use systems thinking to understand how to plan and design social-ecological structures and policies
  • Recognize and address intersecting concerns of social and environmental justice
  • Integrate disciplinary knowledge and methods and identify underlying assumptions when approaching environmental problems
  • Collect, analyze and interpret relevant data and information 
  • Synthesize information and communicate effectively with diverse audiences and across differences
  • Work collaboratively to translate knowledge into meaningful environmental action

The Environmental Science and Policy (ES&P) major is designed for students with interests in the environment and sustainability and a commitment to scientifically based problem solving and policy analysis. The objectives of the major are to prepare students to transcend disciplinary boundaries, combine analytical and communication skills with a well-rounded understanding of the environment and translate this knowledge into meaningful action and innovative solutions. Four integration courses form the core of the major. Each course brings together frameworks, proficiencies and knowledge from natural and social sciences in an explicitly integrative fashion to explore and analyze important environmental topics at local to global scales. Additional introductory courses provide breadth in the natural and social sciences, humanities and policy, and statistics, and introduce students to fundamental aspects of disciplines important to understanding human-environment interactions. Students gain depth of knowledge by choosing a coherent sequence of electives with a clear environmental focus. Students are strongly encouraged to engage in environmentally oriented internships, independent research or study away opportunities.

In their first semesters, students are encouraged to enroll in a foundational course (see the list in the requirements file below) and an appropriate core course (ENV 101), as well as statistics. The Schedule of Classes enables a search of all courses available by department and semester.  
Prospective majors should consult with an ES&P faculty adviser in choosing their courses and can be matched with an adviser by contacting Joanne Benkley.   

Major requirements and checklist for students and advisers.

Checklist for the ES&P Major 
Download a copy of this Google file to work on with your adviser/advisee. Be sure to rename the file and be mindful of access and permissions. 

The Minor in ES&P

The minor in ES&P is designed for students with an interest in environmental issues and sustainability and a commitment to scientifically based problem solving and policy analysis. The minor consists of six courses chosen with the guidance and approval of an ES&P minor adviser. Interested students are urged to meet with an ES&P adviser early in their academic planning.

The Minor in Marine Science & Policy

The Marine Science and Policy (MS&P) minor permits students to pursue interests in coastal and oceanic systems through an integrated sequence of courses in the natural and social sciences. An introduction to marine sciences is obtained through completion of the two basis courses. Students then choose among upper-level courses that focus on or complement scientific investigation of the oceans and the policy aspects of ocean conservation, exploitation and management. Students should consult with one of the co-directors as early as possible in the course selection process.

To learn more about courses currently offered, please see the Smith College Course Catalog.

Students with a strong academic background who wish to conduct independent and original work on an environmental topic are encouraged to pursue an honors project. Interested students should ideally contact potential honors advisers starting in February in the spring semester of their junior year. Please review the ES&P Honors Guidelines document and consult the director of honors for specific requirements and application procedures.

Students interested in exploring a topic, issue or research project independently may propose a Special Studies course with a faculty adviser. Special studies offer students the opportunity to delve into a topic that may not be covered in courses, pursue in greater depth a project begun in a class or in a summer internship, or undertake a new project. Students interested in pursuing special studies should discuss their ideas and course proposal with their faculty adviser in the semester prior to the special studies.

How  To Apply

Applications for special studies courses are due at the beginning of the semester in the first full week of classes, however students may submit their special studies application form in the semester prior to the special studies. Students complete the special studies application in consultation with the special studies adviser and submit the form to the ES&P program director.


Sustainable Smith

The threads of sustainability at Smith are woven into all aspects of the college—academics, operations, research and student life. Learn more about the heart of sustainability on campus.

The Clark Science Center

Environmental Science and Policy curricular activities are enriched by related field and laboratory resources available at Smith. Many ES&P students gain a range of valuable skills and experiences at these facilities. Learn more about the resources available through the Clark Science Center.


Faculty & Staff

Research interests of ES&P faculty advisers span a broad range of fields in the environment, including conservation biology, global climate change, political ecology, globalization and gender, environmental economics, development and population, international environmental politics, environmental ethics, air quality and human health, watershed and water quality dynamics, marine ecosystems and global marine policy.

NOAA College-Supported Internship Program

Students in the NOAA Program

Smith's Environmental Science and Policy Program and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) have partnered on summer internships since 1999, and that partnership has now grown to become the NOAA College-Supported Internship Program. This program provides summer internship opportunities in conservation science, coastal ecology, resource policy and management, environmental education and science communication. In recent years Smith students have interned at numerous NOAA offices, labs and field sites around the country, including Massachusetts, Hawaii, North Carolina, Oregon, Washington D.C., Alaska, Michigan, Virginia and more. Internships have focused on field and lab research, GIS and data analysis, policy analysis, science communication and environmental education for children and adults. Interns work side by side with NOAA policy makers, scientists and others to address current coastal and marine environmental issues.

Each internship is 10 weeks long, with a flexible start date, typically beginning between mid-May and early June. Fellowship stipends of $6,000 are provided by the Agnes Shedd Andreae 1932 Research Internship Fund to support students matched with these normally unpaid positions. These fellowships are for Smith College students only. Each January NOAA posts the list of internships for the coming summer.

Contact Joanne Benkley, Associate Director, Environmental Science and Policy Program, Wright Hall 010, for more information about the process of applying to the NOAA College-Supported Internship Program and Smith College fellowship funding.

Current Opportunities

This year's list of available NOAA College-Supported Internships for this summer are now live online. We expect to be adding more over the coming week. Check them out! 

How to Apply

The application for the NOAA internships is a two-step process. Applications are first reviewed by a committee at Smith for selection in the program and Fellowship funding. The applications of those students are then sent for review by NOAA. Since a number of colleges and universities participate in the NOAA College-Supported Internship Program, any given internship may have multiple interested applicants. If a student is not selected for their first or second choice internship, Smith and NOAA will seek to match the student with a suitable internship. We recommend students indicate up to three internship choices on their applications. Students should never contact NOAA supervisors directly until they are matched with an internship and will be disqualified from the program if they do so.

Interested Smith students should submit an application packet, which includes:

  1. A completed application form
  2. A cover letter that articulating your interest in the internship(s) and how the opportunity relates to your academic and career plans
  3. An unofficial transcript 
  4. Your resume
  5. A letter of recommendation from a faculty member. (Recommendation letters should be sent electronically from recommender's email address to Joanne Benkley).

Completed applications are generally due by March 10, 2023, and should be submitted to Joanne Benkley, Associate Director, Environmental Science and Policy Program, Wright Hall 010,

Please download the application form and use Adobe Reader to fill out and save the completed form. Other PDF readers, such as Preview on Apple computers, will not work well with this form.


Environmental Science & Policy
Center for the Environment,
Wright Hall 005

Smith College
Northampton, MA 01063
Phone: 413-585-3951
Fax: 413-585-3333

Program Chair: Greg White
Associate Director: Joanne Benkley

Individual appointments can be arranged directly with the faculty.