Q&A with Environmental and Sustainability Studies Program Director


Q&A with ENS program director Dr. Betsy Beymer-Farris. For more information about ENS: click HERE!

A transcribed version of the podcast is below:



What is the Environmental and Sustainability Studies (ENS) major?

The ENS major is one of the first of its kind at UK. It is an interdisciplinary major that allows students who are interested in the environment and its complexity and solving some of the pressing issues related to the environment to look at it from multiple perspectives from the humanities, social sciences, natural sciences and combine those to get a broader understanding of how we are going to deal with some of the major environmental challenges that we’re facing. So it is very interdisciplinary in its nature.


How would you describe ENS as different from other environmentally focused majors on campus?

One of the unique aspects of the ENS program is that it is very flexible and it is based on student interests. There are three different themes within the major: the environment, economics, and society. Let’s say you’re interested in the environment, but you’re more interested from a natural science perspective. You are able to tailor your major to fit that interest, or, alternatively, if you’re more interested in the societal dimensions of environmental problems, you can learn about some of the reasons we have environmental problems based on societal influences and the solutions to those. You could pick that track and take courses accordingly, so it is highly flexible and adaptable to your interests and abilities. The major only has five required courses which allows students to pick classes from across the College of Arts and Sciences disciplines to add to it which makes it quite unique and highly adaptable to double majoring. We have a lot of students who major across colleges such as pairing ENS with business to then incorporate sustainable initiatives into corporations to make them more sustainable overall. We have a lot of students who are very interested in the biology component with an emphasis on ENS to look more at the societal impacts as well.


What kind of career opportunities does the ENS degree provide students?

 There are so many. What’s really great is that people are becoming more aware of the environmental and sustainability challenges that the world and US are facing, so the career opportunities are very diverse and plentiful. Someone could work for an environmental non-profit, parks and recreation, government agencies, environmental justice advocacy, and green building and architecture. We have some students who have declared double majors in the college of design as well as ENS to then go work for a firm who is trying to do sustainable architecture. We have students who want to be environmental lawyers, so they are majors in political science and economics with ENS to then go on to law school. There’s so many jobs and a lot of corporations are interested in integrating sustainability into their business, so students are looking into aspects of that after their college career. Ecojobs.com expores more opportunities for students who are interested.


What kind of advice would you give students to succeed in the major after life at UK?

The important thing about our program is that it is student driven. We are focused on our undergraduate students and our goals are to get them internships while they’re at UK so they can have opportunities to work in the community and affect change while they’re here. There are some amazing student groups on campus that our program is affiliated with where we encourage our students to get involved and affect change while they’re here so they know how to do it when they graduate. Some of our majors have done exceptional things such as bringing a Climate Action Plan to UK and helping establish that. We have students in the Urban Forestry Initiative which is an amazing program to increase tree cover in Lexington. They are doing great work on campus and off and that is something we encourage with our students. One other things we encourage is also undergraduate research experience. As an ENS major we very much want our students to gain experience not just in the classroom but outside of it in developing their ability to do research, think about complex problems and how we solve them, engage in fieldwork, and have experiential learning opportunities while they’re here.


Where can people go to learn more about the ENS major?

Check out ens.as.uky.edu where we have tons of information about job opportunities. We have a page about sustainability in action where we talk about all the cool things our students are doing to affect change towards positive solutions to the environment both on campus and off as well as the curricular needs for the major that you’d have to do once you come to UK or if you’re already here. Reach out to us as well; my contact details are on the web page and I’d be happy to talk to you and answer any other questions you may have.