Spring Semester


This icon indicates that a course is green focused.
Other courses in the listing are green related,
meaning that topics in this course touch on areas
and/or skills related to environmental issues or sustainability.

American Conversations (2)

AMCON 102 Democratic Vistas: 1800-1900

In this century of institutional development, national expansion, and sectional conflict, Americans continued to define a national identity. Students probe the ways in which region, religion, race, ethnicity, and gender inform individual and group contributions to the conversation. They also analyze how geographical expansion and ideas of progress influenced different visions and versions of America. Topics and texts range from Transcendentalist writers, the Second Great Awakening, and Black Elk Speaks to landscape painting and Western photography.

AMCON 202 Pur/Happiness: 1920-Present

Students in this course examine technology, the mass market and consumerism, and the increasingly complex relations between identity and material goods. They also explore the images, institutions, and stories of environmental, feminist, and Civil Rights activists in the context of Cold War America. Topics and texts range from Yosemite National Park and Japanese internment camps to Adrienne Rich’s poetry and prose, Freedom Summer, Las Vegas, and the Mall of America.

Asian Studies (2)

ASIAN 220: Asian Conversations III

Having looked at how people journey through Asia, this final semester in Asian Conversations considers how ideas travel over time and space. Students examine a range of interpretations of Asia, including the spiritual, literary, philosophical and linguistics. Students are required to publicly present the ideas gathered from contacts made during Interim at the beginning of the semester. Additional materials include memoirs, novels, and films that share individualized interpretations of Asian journeys. Students will also discuss environmentalissues in the United States and the ways in which they compare to those in China and Japan and other parts of Asia.Prerequisite: Chinese 231 or Japanese 231 and Asian Studies 215 or 216.

AS/RE 289 Buddhism, Peace, and Justice

Students examine contemporary Buddhist moral teachings on social issues such as violence and peacemaking, human rights and social justice and humanity and the environment. Coursework focuses on the writings of Vietnamese monk and peace activist Thich Nhat Hanh, Tibetan leader-in-exile Tenzin Gyatso (Fourteenth Dalai Lama), American ecologist Joanna Macy and others. Students consider the moral paradigms of Christianity and Buddhism: Christ and the Bodhisattva.



Biology (8)

BIO 121 Biological Science

This course explores contemporary biological issues related to health and the environment, with the goal of fostering informed citizens prepared for current biological debates. Students learn the relevant biological principles in lecture and lab followed by appropriate lab or field research. Specific topics vary from year to year and may include emerging diseases, cardiovascular health, genetics, specific groups of organisms, behavior, and environmental dynamics. Biology 121 features a unit on ecology and the environment. Because this course is intended for non-majors, students are prompted to make connections between course concepts and their academic disciplines.

BIO 150 Evolutionary Foundations in Biodiversity

This course is the gateway for the biology major, guiding students as they develop the context, skills, and modern framework on which to continue their study of biology. Students explore the history, evolution, and diversity of life in the context of genetics and comparative genomics. The laboratory emphasizes question-asking, problem-solving, and exploring biodiversity, and students have multiple opportunities to practice and communicate their science. Students attend lectures plus one 3-hour laboratory/discussion per week.

BIO 227 Cell Biology

This course provides a comprehensive overview of cellular structure and function including cellular compartments, macromolecular structures, and life processes such as energy and material flux, cell division, and control mechanisms. Students learn current and/or historical evidence and methodology (e.g., microscopy, isolation procedures, and probes). Laboratory experiences provide opportunities for qualitative and quantitative observations of cellular structure and function. Students place their work in the context of current research through examination of relevant literature and formal presentations.

BIO 231 Microbiology

Microbiology examines the morphology, composition, metabolism, and genetics of microorganisms with emphasis on bacteria and viruses. Students examine the dynamic impact of microbes on humans, the immune response, and the role of microbes in the environment.

BIO 266 Comparative Vertebrate Anatomy

What happened to the dinosaurs? Can some human congenital heart defects be explained by reference to cardiovascular systems of diving turtles? Examining the origin and evolution of vertebrates, comparing morphology across vertebrate taxa and examining selective factors leading to modern forms is of value to health science students, graduate studies in biology, and people who like dinosaurs. Students read Your Inner Fish, a book that details the 3.5-billion-year history of the human body and the descent of human kind.

BIO 251 Plant Physiology

This course begins with an in-depth look at a plant cell and its physiology, followed by a discussion of whole plant physiology as it relates to cellular functions.

greenlightTransparentBIO 261 Ecological Principles

Ecology focuses on the study of the interrelationships that determine the distribution and abundance of organisms. This core course examines organism-environment interactions and the study of populations, communities and ecosystems. Consideration is given to use of ecological studies in ecosystem management. Students attend lectures plus one three-hour laboratory per week.


greenlightTransparentBI/ES 226 Conservation Biology

Conservation biology focuses on the study of biological diversity. Students examine why people should be concerned about the number and types of species on earth, what factors threaten the survival of species, and how people can conserve them. Using principles of ecology and evolution, with input from other disciplines, students gain a better understanding of the impact of humans on biodiversity and the importance of responsible environmental decision-making.
Chemistry (3)

CHEM 111: Chemistry and the World

Students explore aspects of chemistry that are encountered in the world. Basic concepts in chemistry, such as matter and bonding, acid/base chemistry, and solution chemistry, are discussed within the context of society at large. Laboratory experiences complement the class material, and students have opportunities to explore chemistry principles. Students attend three hours of class and one three-hour laboratory per week. Does not count toward the major. Offered annually in the spring semester.

CHEM 248 Organic Chemistry II

This course is a continuation of Chemistry 247 topics. Chemistry 248 delves into the chemistry of functional groups, especially those that play a role in the reactivity of biomolecules such as carbohydrates, lipids, proteins and nucleic acids. Together, Chemistry 247 and 248 provide a full treatment of introductory organic chemistry. Prerequisite: Chemistry 247 or permission of instructor. Offered annually in the spring semester.

CHEM 254 Synthesis Lab II

This course is a continuation of Chemistry 253. Students gain more experience with techniques used in Chemistry 253 and in addition use gas chromatographic/mass spectrometric analyses.

Economics (1)

ECON 249 Urban Economics

This class applies economic principles to issues of urban development. Topics include urban economic history, location analysis, policy analysis (especially concerning poverty, housing, transportation and education), land use controls, and macroeconomic forecasting.


English (1)

ENGL 276: Literature and the Environment

Through nonfiction, fiction, and poetry, students explore the complex relations between humans and the “natural” world. Students consider questions such as the following: What does it mean to be connected to a landscape? What is a sense of place? Students also reflect on how they and the writers they read put landscape into language.

Environmental Studies (6)

greenlightTransparentENVST 281A: Topics in Environmental Studies 

EnvSt 281 Sustainable Development (SOCSCI) – Seth Binder The past 200 years have seen unprecedented, exponential improvements in the health and material well -being of humankind. Yet, a substantial portion of the world’s 7 billion people is largely excluded from this progress. Many of the same forces that have created this extraordinary material growth and concomitant inequality have also contributed to the vast and rapid alteration our natural environment. The unintended negative consequences of environmental change threaten to rob current and future populations of the benefits of continued economic development. This has led to a call for “sustainable development.” In this course, we will discuss the ethical and historical underpinnings of the sustainable development concept; explore what exactly is required for development to be sustainable (especially with respect to the environment); investigate the factors that have led development to be particularly unsustainable; and evaluate a variety of steps — both incremental and radical — that can put us on a path to more sustainable development.


ENVST 245 Global Climate Change

This course is an interdisciplinary seminar on climate throughout the earth’s history, including recent changes caused by humankind. Using current scientific literature, students investigate causes of climate change and consider scenarios for future climate based on models incorporating alternative global development strategies.

greenlightTransparentENVST 276 Environmental Politics

Analysis of environmental policy includes the politics of agenda setting, policy selection and program implementation, and the effects of policy outcomes.


greenlightTransparentENVST 399 Seminar: Environmental Studies

A capstone seminar for seniors in the major and concentration, this course involves intensive study of special topics utilizing student research projects and presentations. An academic civic engagement project relies on the expertise gained from their environmental studies courses and work in other majors as applicable. Topics relate to a local or regional environmental issue, providing participants with opportunities to interact with government and regulatory agencies and community groups.

greenlightTransparentENVST 137 Introduction to Environmental Studies

Introduction to Environmental Studies is a sustainability-focused course that explores a range of environmental issues in an attempt to uncover social, economic, and ecological causes, consequences, and solutions.

greenlightTransparentBI/ES 226 Conservation Biology

Conservation biology focuses on the study of biological diversity. Students examine why people should be concerned about the number and types of species on earth, what factors threaten the survival of species, and how people can conserve them. Using principles of ecology and evolution, with input from other disciplines, students gain a better understanding of the impact of humans on biodiversity and the importance of responsible environmental decision-making.
Exercise Science - Activity (2)

ESAC 106 Rock Climbing

Students learn basic rock climbing skills, techniques, and safety procedures.

ESAC 125 Canoeing

This course offers instruction in and practice of the basic techniques of canoeing and safety in handling the canoe.

German (3)

greenlightTransparentGERM 250: Speaking German

The focus of German 250 will be “Green Germany,” and the many ways Germany exports sustainable energy and German “know-how” across the planet, investing in everything sustainable.This course is designed to teach speaking strategies and bring students to an Intermediate-high level of oral proficiency through practice in everyday communication such as telling stories, giving reports, and organizing social events. The course focuses on higher-order functions such as paragraph-length narration, presenting opinions, small group discussion, and formal presentations, as well as interviews, debates, and regular group conversations with classroom guests and speakers. Taught in German.

GERM 112: Beginning German II

Students continue to develop basic language skills with emphasis on expanding vocabulary and on writing assignments that aid in the practical application of grammatical concepts. Communicating in German about familiar personal topics, students acquire vocabulary about sports, food, holidays, school, and life in German speaking cultures. German 112 features a unit on the environment (die Umwelt,) which focuses on sustainable living in Germany.

GERM 111B: Beginning German

Students begin to learn German through listening, speaking, reading, and writing about situations familiar to them including their personal biographies, families, daily life, studies, travels, and hobbies. Regular writing assignments are designed to help students learn vocabulary, check spelling, and to form thoughts with German sentence structure. Regular speaking activities aid in acquiring good pronunciation and listening skills. German 111B features two units on the environment (die Umwelt,) with a focus on sustainable living in Germany.

History (1)

greenlightTransparentHIST 275 American Environmental History

By examining the interaction of people and environment on the North American continent from the 15th century to the present, this course shows how history “takes place” in ecological contexts that change over time. Students compare Native American and Euro-American religious beliefs, social values, economic aspirations, and technological developments and examine their consequences for the flora, fauna, and peoples of the continent.


Interdisciplinary (1)

ID 234 Human Geography

This course provides an examination and application of the key content, skills, and perspectives of human geography. The lens of the geographer focuses on the spatial distribution of phenomena over the surface of the earth, asking the questions “where?” and “why there?” The practices and skills of geography are used to investigate a variety of issues in the Middle East, including environmental problems, the culture and management of sacred places, and the reasons for war and the need for peace.


Math (3)

MATH 230 Differential Equations

This course introduces differential equations and analytical, numerical, and graphical techniques for the analysis of their solutions. First- and second-order differential equations and linear systems are studied. Applications are selected from areas such as biology, chemistry, economics, ecology, and physics. Laplace transforms or nonlinear systems may be covered as time permits. Students use computers extensively to calculate and visualize results. Differential Equations addresses problems and applications concerning modeling of populations and resource harvesting.

MATH 126 Calculus II

This course covers methods and applications of integration, geometric and Taylor series, and introduces partial derivatives and double integrals. Calculus II addresses problems and applications concerning modeling of populations and resource harvesting.

MATH 236 Math of Biology

This course introduces students to the mathematics of complex systems, as applied to problems from biology. Topics include discrete and continuous models of single species and multiple species populations, age structure of populations, disease spread, evolution and game theory, and competition.

Media (1)

MEDIA 360 Media and Globalization

Media and Globalization includes a unit on media and the environment. This unit looks at how mediated representations of nature inform debates about environmental issues, and considers economic and social aspects of environmental sustainability from various global perspectives.

Nursing (1)

NURS 120 Images of Wellness

This course examines how contemporary culture influences present-day wellness perspectives. Values, lifestyle, daily stresses, and corresponding coping mechanisms affecting one’s well being are explored. Students study health behaviors as a function of social influences and, conversely, the impact of unhealthy coping behaviors on the social enterprise. This course also includes an exploration of wellness from the perspective of non-western cultures. Students examine the importance of living in accordance with one’s operative values, along with the relationship between environmental quality and wellness.


Off-Campus (5)

OFFC 388D US: Washington Institute

The Institute for Experiential Learning (IEL), founded in 1990, provides experiential education programs and academic-based internships in Washington, DC. Designed for participants with interests in all fields of study, the program consists of two coordinated seminars and a four-day-per-week internship in the executive and legislative branches of government embassies or various organizations related to business, law and social development. Four St. Olaf course credits are awarded for the 15 semester hours.


The Scandinavian Urban Studies Term (SUST) investigates dramatic changes in Northern Europe by critically analyzing the development of the Norwegian welfare state through a wide range of topics such as globalization theories, nation-building and national identity, governance and political party systems, European integration, racial thinking, histories of racialization, international aid politics, sexuality, and environmentalism. The topical organization of the program is cumulative and deliberately contradictory, illuminating the international relevance of the Scandinavian case study.

OFFC 287 Norway: SUST Year HECUA

The Scandinavian Urban Studies Term (SUST) investigates dramatic changes in Northern Europe by critically analyzing the development of the Norwegian welfare state through a wide range of topics such as globalization theories, nation-building and national identity, governance and political party systems, European integration, racial thinking, histories of racialization, international aid politics, sexuality, and environmentalism. The topical organization of the program is cumulative and deliberately contradictory, illuminating the international relevance of the Scandinavian case study.

OFFC 202F Ecuador: HECUA II

This course explores socioeconomic issues in Ecuador as manifested in the country’s growing inequality and the proliferation of new social movements to address this crisis. Particular emphasis will be placed on indigenous rights, gender equality, the protection and management of natural resources, and Ecuador’s new constitution. Students compare and contrast the Ecuadorian experience with developments in other parts of Latin America.

OFFC 208F Costa Rica: Trop Field II

The spring program is designed for advanced work in the natural and social sciences. Costa Rica supports an extraordinary variety of plant and animal life and provides rich research opportunities for students of tropical biology and ecology. An equally broad range of research topics is available for students of anthropology, archaeology, economics, geography, geology, history, political science, and sociology. Students prepare for their research during a month-long orientation, which includes intensive language training, and a review of fieldwork methodology.

Philosophy (1)

greenlightTransparentPHIL 257 Environmental Ethics

Valuing nature raises significant philosophical and ethical issues. This course considers the nature of animal life, the character and control of pollution, the conflict between preservation and conservationism, corporate and governmental responsibility for the eco-crisis, the use of economic categories to assess wilderness areas and endangered species, the conflict between eco-holism and individualism, and the philosophy of wilderness management.
Science Conversation (1)

SCICN 217 Cultural Context

This course examines the mutual influences of science and society while exploring the historical, political, economic, and religious aspects of these influences. It concerns the institutional settings that shape the practices of science and the vocation of scientists. It analyzes theological perspectives as they appropriate, resist, and advance science.

Sociology/Anthropology (1)

SOAN 264 Race/Class in American Culture

Students explore the continuing significance of color, class, and immigration in the U.S., with a focus on the experiences and concerns of African-Americans, Native Americans, Hispanics/Latinos, and Asian-Americans. The course examines the nature and functions of prejudice; the relationship among race, class and gender; the persistence of racism and inequality; and social policies and social movements intended to create greater social justice. Several class periods address environmental issues, particularly environmental racism (the ways in which discrimination against various racial minorities and the poor often involves their being subject to or living in contaminated, unhealthy, or otherwise ecologically challenging situations). A class period is also spent talking about the difference between Native American and Western views about the environment.
Writing (4)

greenlightTransparentWRIT 111: Food Politics

Why do you eat what you eat? What does this say about you and your relationship to people, the environment, animals, and politics? Finally, how is the act of eating a political action, akin to public discourse? The theme of this writing course will explore various philosophies of food consumption and distribution, asking and debating questions about why certain communities experience obesity and abundance while others suffer from starvation and lack. We will investigate farming and agribusiness, philosophies of food consumption such as vegetarianism and the slow foods movement, and personal food and cooking habits. As a class, we will frame our discussions and writings around contemporary readings, advertisements, documentaries, film representations, fictional texts, recipes and cookbooks, and academic texts. As part of this exploration into how food and democracy go hand in hand, you will be expected to write a wide variety of genres including a food narrative, controversy analysis, researched argument, public argument, and manifesto.



French writer Brillat-Savarin declares in The Physiology of Taste of 1848,“Tell me what you eat, and I will tell you what you are.” American writer Mark Kurlansky insists in his 2002 Choice Cuts: A Savory Selection of Food Writing from around the World and throughout History, “Food is about agriculture, about ecology, about man’s relationship with nature, about the climate, about nation-building, cultural struggles, friends and enemies, alliances, wars, religion. It is about memory and tradition and, at times, even about sex.” Cooking and eating as a topic of serious intellectual inquiry as well as one of enormous import in popular culture are the focus of this writing seminar. Through a number of formal and informal writing assignments, students will explore the role of food in a variety of contexts such as literature, art, history, film, journalism, and television. Texts and films may include Michael Pollan’s recent work of nonfiction Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation, Emile Zola’s nineteenth-century novel, The Belly of Paris, Nora Ephron’s hit movie Julie and Julia, and Gabriel Axel’s 1987 Danish movie, Babette’s Feast.


WRI 111B: Telling Stories About Climate Change

The most recent report from the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) doesn’t pull any punches. The globe continues to warm, ice continues to melt at an alarming pace, and the seas continue to rise. Climate change is already happening. Yet, according to a 2013 survey by the Pew Research Center, only 40% of Americans cited climate change as a major threat. So what gives? Why aren’t people getting the message? Are we delivering it wrong? Do we need more stories and better storytellers? This writing seminar will examine various approaches to the subject, with a particular focus on how a compelling story might be told, especially when conveying scientific data and abstract ideas. What makes a story compelling? Memorable? Inspiring? We’ll frame our discussion and writings around a variety of media (novels, graphic novels, essays, poetry, and film).In class, students do some storytelling on their own, write responses to assigned reading or films, work in small writing groups to give and receive feedback, and write daily exercises that take up a certain element covered in our writing handbook. Additional writing assignments will include a personal essay, an analysis essay, a research essay, short blog entries, and more.


WRI 111J: Now or Never

Can we avert catastrophic consequences of the impact of human activity on the atmosphere, or is it already too late? What is the evidence for the “greenhouse effect,” the “ozone hole,” and “climate change”? This seminar will examine data about our planet’s atmosphere from ancient times to the present and consider the impact of both human activities and natural phenomena. We will see how early scientists came to view the concept of gases, to identify the individual components of air, and to understand gases’ properties, including why some can act as