News & Information

New environmental degree marks a 'coming of age'


Graduates of Sacramento State’s Department of Environmental Studies will be on a more level playing field than they have been in its 40-year history.

The department in March received the go-ahead to award Bachelor of Science degrees. It previously had awarded only Bachelor of Arts degrees.

“In the larger scheme, this represents the coming of age of the discipline,” Department Chair Dudley Burton says. “We’ve been working in this direction for a long time.”

Most important is the benefit to students in the program, who now can compete more equally for technical jobs with graduates from disciplines such as Biology and Chemistry who entered the workforce with B.S. degrees.

“Some agencies required a B.S. to hire anybody in these kind of jobs,” Burton says. “The contradiction was the students (in Environmental Studies) were prepared for these jobs but couldn’t compete because they didn’t have the appropriate degree designation.”

He adds that not all Environmental Studies students will pursue a B.S. now that they are available, but the more technically oriented will. Many students in the department already are switching their majors to reflect the new degree designation, as the approval date for the B.S. is retroactive to Fall 2010.

Burton says the department being OK’d for issuing B.S. degrees illustrates a shift in thinking in regard to the course of study and shows that Environmental Studies is “a legitimate field of scientific inquiry.”

From its early days at Sac State in the mid-1960s, when Environmental Studies first became widely practiced and was pieced together as an interdisciplinary field, and even after its establishment in 1971 as an official department at Sac State with noted geneticist Wes Jackson as the first director, sentiment toward it has been somewhat chilly from other realms of the scientific community.

“I wouldn’t say there’s a strong sense about that now,” Burton says.

For more on Sacramento’s State’s Environmental Studies program, visit For media assistance, contact Public Affairs at (916) 278-6156.