Capstone Courses

The environmental studies capstone course (Envir St 600) is a required component for students completing our major. Priority is given to students declared in the environmental studies major. If you are an environmental studies certificate student, you may enroll on November 22 if seats remain. The capstone course will count toward the theme requirement for environmental studies certificate students.

Spring 2017 Capstone Courses

Section 001: Energy, Air, and Policy
Professor Tracey Holloway
Tuesdays and Thursdays, 11:00 a.m.-12:15 p.m.

Over the last 45 years, air quality in the United States has seen remarkable improvements -- pollution levels are way down, life expectancies are up, and visible smog is a rarity across the country. The health benefits of current air pollution controls are staggering. In fact, according to a White House report, 98-99% of the monetized benefits of all EPA regulation are due to air rules. These rules affect energy in the U.S., especially electricity, transportation, and manufacturing, and highlight an environmental challenge in providing energy that is affordable, reliable, and clean. This course will delve into current air pollution policies and controversies, and examine air and energy issues from all sides. Students will use air and/or energy data to help an air or energy partner address a question or analysis need, and prepare a final report.

Section 002: Building Food Justice Capacity in South Madison
Dadit Hidayat and Alfonso Morales
Mondays, 2:25-5:25 p.m.

Join the "Building Food Justice Capacity in South Madison" course and become part of an impactful project that addresses the interconnection of food sovereignty, urban agriculture and racial disparities. Designed as a community organizing course, this course is a unique interpretation of interdisciplinary learning by applying academic knowledge that follows community's vision.

This course is the last in a series of four service learning capstone courses funded by the Ira and Ineva Reilly Baldwin Wisconsin Idea Endowment; the project also received support from a two-year Plan4Health grant from the Capital Area Regional Planning Commission. The Spring 2017 capstone course will focus on the following objectives:

Students will be involved in both planning and execution processes, and will work closely with community partners. The course will rely heavily on student participation and motivation to support this community-led initiative. Flexible schedules are expected as likely we will have project tasks that require students to go to meetings outside of regular class times. Students may be expected to be on a farm for some community engagement activities.

Selected resources:

Section 003: Urban Food Systems and the Environment
Monica White
Tuesdays, 2:25-4:55 p.m.

This course will examine the relationship between food systems and the environment and allow students to identify a project of interest that they will develop from a research question to data collection and analysis. We will pay particular attention to the social, political and environmental impacts of local food movements. In an effort to examine community responses to food insecurity, students will explore the food landscape from production (i.e. agriculture) to distribution and participate in community service activities, like work at a community gardening project. Students will also meet with and interview local residents and stakeholders in the urban agricultural movement in Madison.

Section 004: Environmental Justice: Land, Water and Food
Monica White
Mondays, 9:00-11:30 a.m.

This course will explore several environmental justice movements for land, water and food. Students will select a specific organization of their own interest and apply social movement theories, for example, resource mobilization, political process model, and others, in order to examine the conditions under which a community responds to environmental concerns that impact access to and quality of land, water and food.

Section 005: Last Child in the Park: How Kids and Birds Can Save the Planet
Anke Keuser
Wednesdays, 7:30-9:30 a.m. and 2:15-5:15 p.m.
To enroll, please contact Anke Keuser (

We will be working hand in hand with staff at Madison's Sherman Middle School to provide a nature study program to 6th, 7th, and 8th grade students. A high percentage of Sherman ethnically diverse students live in poverty. The school is making herculean efforts to meet student needs by providing after-school programming. Our class helps the school meet those needs by pairing UW students as after-school mentors with a Sherman student.

Every Wednesday morning from 7:30-9:30am, our UW class meets for an introduction to basic field ornithology in the Lakeshore Preserve. No experience is necessary. Bird identification is a satisfying skill to acquire and birds are a beautiful portal to better understanding and appreciation of the biophysical world. You will learn how to identify Wisconsin's most common birds by sight and sound, then you will teach that skill to your middle school student "co-explorer." Every Wednesday afternoon from 2:15-5:15pm, we meet as a class at Sherman Middle School on Madison's Northside (free transportation provided by the university). Together with Sherman's Nature Explorers Club, we walk as a group to Warner Park. We spend the afternoon exploring to learn what the park and its landscape and wild creatures have to teach us, and what we all have to teach each other. We do some group activities like planting prairie seeds, birdwatching and fort-building. At the same time you will be paired with a Sherman middleschooler as "co-explorers"; in a nature-mentoring relationship. You will help your Sherman co-explorer develop academic and social skills while building an awareness of and appreciation for the natural resources of Warner Park. And your co-explorer will teach you what he or she already knows about their wonderful park and its furred, finned and feathered residents. For a press account of this work, see this article in the Capital Times.

Here is an opportunity to be the change you want to see in the world.

It is critical that you are able to attend both sessions consistently. Establishing a solid relationship with the Sherman students is extremely important, and you must be there for that relationship to develop. Attendance is 50% of your grade.

Section 006: Culture and Conservation: Living Ho Chunk History in Monona Parks
Jessie Conaway
Mondays and Wednesdays, 1:00-2:15 p.m.

Be the Change! As part of the UniverCity partnership with the city of Monona, and in collaboration with the Ho Chunk Nation, this course will research the Cultural history of the Ahuska and Woodland parklands in Monona, examine the intersection of culture and conservation in park history, observe and survey current park practices, and ultimately make recommendations around these impressions. Students will identify opportunities for collaboration and project design among these three partners. Projects can be completed onsite and remotely. The intended outcomes include promoting cultural awareness in education and recreation, increasing the usability and impact of natural spaces, promoting innovative sustainable management practices and building relationships to promote long-term planning for cultural and environmental preservation in Monona.

Examples of student projects include:

Required field trip dates: