Home < Degrees < Culture, History and Environment

Culture, History and Environment

Administrative Unit:Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies
College/School: Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies
Minors and Certificates:Ph.D. Minor, Graduate Certificate


The environmental challenges we face today arise as much from human actions as from natural processes. Only at our peril do we forget that nature, in all its myriad forms, is inextricably bound up with every aspect of human culture, economy, and politics. In attending to past environmental and cultural change, and in synthesizing diverse research methods and approaches drawn from across the full spectrum of humanities, natural sciences, and social sciences, the certificate in culture, history, and environment (CHE) contributes in important ways to the understanding of the past, present, and future environmental issues through interdisciplinary education and research.

In spring 2007, the Center for Culture, History, and Environment was officially established within the Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies. The disciplinary mix represented by the faculty and graduate students in CHE is a cross-section of the collaborations that have been forged across the Nelson Institute, the College of Letters & Science, and the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences. Departments, programs, and schools represented by CHE faculty and graduate students include American Indian Studies, Anthropology, Botany, Community and Environmental Sociology, English, Forest and Wildlife Ecology, Gender and Women's Studies, Geography, History, History of Science, Journalism and Mass Communication, Law, Landscape Architecture, and Limnology.

Through the CHE Environmental History Colloquium, the annual place-based workshops, and the Tales from Planet Earth film festival, among other activities, CHE has created a lively, engaged community of faculty, graduate students, and others from a wide array of academic disciplines to investigate environmental and cultural change in the full sweep of human history. The CHE certificate considers applications from students in any graduate degree program at UW–Madison. By entering CHE early in their graduate studies and planning carefully, students often can select courses that satisfy both their degree program and CHE requirements.

Certificate students must complete at least 12–13 credits including an interdisciplinary methods seminar, a place-based workshop, a thematically coherent sequence of courses relating to past environmental and cultural change, and varying participation in the CHE environmental history colloquium. Courses should be chosen from at least two of the main divisions of UW–Madison curricula—the humanities, natural sciences, and social sciences—and should expose students to research approaches from outside their home discipline. Once a student and their advisor have developed and described the rationale for the chosen thematic sequence, it must be reviewed and approved by the CHE curriculum subcommittee. Possible thematic sequences might include the following: representations of nature, rural studies, urban studies, environmental conflict, environmental justice, environmental policy and politics, communities and forests, landscape change, environmental health and history, indigenous cultures and landscapes, and environmental communications.

Master's degree students who complete the program receive a certificate in CHE to supplement their graduate degree. Doctoral degree students can complete CHE as a certificate and/or as an external minor. CHE is not available as a stand-alone graduate degree.

For more information: Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies, Academic Programs Office, 70 Science Hall, 550 North Park Street, Madison WI 53706-1491; 608-262-7996; fax 608-262-2273; grad@nelson.wisc.edu; nelson.wisc.edu/graduate/culture-history-environment/index.php.