Recognizing the need for and importance of interdisciplinary approaches to the study of past environmental and cultural changes, CHE has offered a graduate certificate and PhD minor since 2008.


The environmental challenges we face today arise as much from human actions as from natural processes. Only at our peril do we forget that nature, in all its myriad forms, is inextricably bound up with every aspect of human culture, economy, and politics.

In exploring past environmental and cultural change and synthesizing diverse research methods and approaches drawn from the full spectrum of humanities, natural sciences, and social sciences, the graduate program in Culture, History, and Environment contributes in important ways to the understanding of past, present, and future environmental issues through interdisciplinary education and research.

CHE's curriculum accommodates graduate students in a wide range of degree programs at UW-Madison.


The program includes several elements, most of which can be met in any sequence with many different combinations of courses and experiences. This flexibility accommodates the wide range of degree programs with which the Certificate or PhD Minor can be combined. All students must complete a thematic sequence of nine credits chosen from across the environmental disciplines. In addition, Certificate students must complete the Methods Seminar, attend a Place-Based Workshop, and publicly present their CHE-related work.

THEMATIC SEQUENCE - Required for Minor and Certificate
9 credits

With the help of their advisor and committee, each CHE student designs a thematically coherent sequence of courses relating to past environmental and cultural change. Courses should be chosen from at least two of the main divisions of UW-Madison curricula — the humanities, natural sciences, and social sciences — and should expose students to research approaches from outside their home disciplines. Once a student and his or her advisor have developed and described the rationale for the chosen thematic sequence, the student must complete the Application Form. This form must be reviewed and approved by the CHE curriculum subcommittee. Possible thematic sequences might include the following:

  • Representations of nature
  • Rural studies
  • Urban studies
  • Environmental conflict
  • Environmental justice
  • Environmental policy and politics
  • Communities and forests
  • Landscape change
  • Environmental health and history
  • Indigenous cultures and landscapes
  • Environmental communications


Interdisciplinary Methods Seminar
3 credits

This course introduces students to methods, approaches, and research questions involved in the study of past environmental and cultural change.

Place-Based Workshops

These workshops introduce students to place-based research questions and approaches. A new workshop is offered at least once a year, most commonly at the end of the spring semester.

Public Presentation

CHE Certificate students are expected to participate in the colloquium as their degree programs allow, and to present their own research to the CHE community, at either the colloquium, the CHE graduate student symposium, or some other forum as a capstone requirement of the Certificate.

Applying to the Certificate or Minor

CHE welcomes applications from students in any graduate degree program at UW-Madison. Master's degree students who complete the program receive CHE Certificates in addition to their degrees. Doctoral students can complete either the Certificate or the PhD minor. CHE is not available as a stand-alone graduate degree.

To apply for the Certificate or minor, you will need to choose a CHE advisor from the list of CHE Faculty Associates. Once a CHE faculty member has agreed to be your advisor, please download the application form and follow the instructions for completing and submitting it. The Curriculum Committee reviews applications on a semesterly basis.

Completing or Changing your Certificate or Minor

If you wish to change your approved course of study, you will need the approval of both your CHE advisor and the Curriculum Committee. To request a change, please download the course modification form and follow the instructions for completing and submitting it.

When you have completed your Certificate or minor course of study, the Curriculum Committee will need to approve adding the completion to your transcript. After your final CHE coursework has been completed, please download the completion form and follow the instructions for completing and submitting it. Doctoral students pursuing the Minor should make sure to submit their completion form together with their preliminary exam warrant.