Student-Designed Concentration

The Student-Designed (SD) Concentration within the E&S major allows students to pursue a specific intellectual/professional goal not encompassed by the structured concentrations (EBAE, EH, EPG, LAWR and SBEE). These structured concentrations were carefully designed by E&S faculty to serve the breadth of interests for most students in the major, and they are organized around learning goals that position students to develop expertise and professional success in core environmental fields. If a student finds that the 5 existing structured concentrations do not match their educational objectives, they can work with their advisor to propose an alternative course of study comprised of a minimum of 8 courses (24 credits) focused around a specified intellectual/professional goal. Student-Designed Concentration proposals will only be considered if the student follows the submission timeline and eligibility requirements below. Proposals will be carefully evaluated, and only those that feature clear and compelling objectives, justifications, and planning will be accepted.

Proposal Submission Timeline

Students interested in designing their own concentration in the E&S major will draft a ~500 word proposal that specifies their educational objectives and provides a rationale for their Student-Designed Concentration. This proposal needs to list a minimum of 8 directly relevant courses (including links to Course Descriptions). Students are expected to incorporate feedback from their Faculty Advisor (and others with whom they choose to consult) into their final proposal.

For students who entered Cornell as a first-year E&S major in Fall 2022, new SD plans will not be accepted after sophomore year.

Starting in Fall 2023, external and internal transfers and Arts & Sciences students declaring their major in sophomore year will be required to submit a SD plan in the first semester of their junior year.


To be eligible to submit a SD proposal, students must have completed or be enrolled in

  • 1 Core Foundation class (NTRES/ENVS 1101 or NTRES/ENVS 1201) AND

  • 3 Additional Disciplinary Core Requirements from the following:

    • Social Science (NTRES 2201)

    • Biology (BIOEE 1610 or BIOEE 1780)

    • Chemistry/Physics (CHEM 1560/2070 or EAS 1600)

    • Environmental Humanities (see Core list)

    • Environmental Economics (AEM 1500 or AEM 2500)

This ensures that the SD Proposal is written after exposure to multiple disciplinary approaches to environment and sustainability. Students will be asked to submit the E&S Degree Progress Checklist with their application showing what core and concentration requirements have been completed and in what semester they will complete future core and concentration classes.

Course Requirements for Student-Designed Concentration


  • Courses should reflect a specific environment or sustainability theme or interrelated pair of themes.
  • Minimum of 8 courses (24 credits) beyond the E&S core requirements.
  • At least 18 credits (6 out of 8 courses) must be at the 3000-level or above.
  • A course may only be used once to meet either an E&S core or concentration requirement.
  • Independent study courses, internship credits, and research credits are not eligible for the SD concentration.

Objectives and Rationale

Approval of a student-designed concentration is contingent upon a proposal explaining in detail the educational and career goals that motivate your plan and why these goals are better met by a student-designed concentration than by any of the E&S structured concentrations.

The ~500 word, double-spaced proposal should include:

  • Student Name
  • Title /Theme for the plan of study
  • Identify your educational and career goals that motivate the proposed plan of study, and why these goals are better met by a student-designed plan over any of the structured concentrations.
  • How each proposed course, by consulting course learning outcomes (provide link to course in the Class Roster or Courses of Study), contributes to a coherent curriculum that advances your educational AND professional goals in the Environment and Sustainability major. Emphasize how the classes build your depth of understanding and relate to each other rather than reiterating course descriptions.

Accepted E&S SD Concentration proposals should be understood as “living documents.” As a student makes their way through their self-designed plan, their knowledge in this field of study - and their understanding of their personal objectives - will grow. Changes to the list of courses that comprise the SD Concentration are allowed with approval of the Faculty Advisor and submission of an updated plan to the E&S program mailbox (copy advisor).

More information

  • Avian Ecology and Conservation
  • Climate Change Solutions
  • Ecological Agriculture
  • Environmental Health
  • Environmental Informatics
  • Environmental Literature and Criticism
  • Environmental Microbiology
  • Fisheries and Aquatic Biology
  • Marine Conservation and Management
  • Science Policy and Communication
  • Sustainable Agriculture
  • Sustainable Business
  • Sustainable Development
  • Sustainable Energy
  • Sustainable Forestry
  • Sustainable Marketing
  • Water Resource Management
  • Wildlife Conservation