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Built on a foundation of improving equity for all communities, the Food Systems emphasis equips you with the skills to improve and stabilize food systems, alleviate hunger, and identify entrepreneurial opportunities in a rapidly changing sector. You’ll examine a variety of approaches to creating food security and challenge yourself to improve existing food systems through applying current research to practices maintained locally, nationally, and globally.

Program Overview

A future of sustainable food production and distribution for all.

For over a decade, Western students have engaged in on-campus food production to test and apply concepts in the field, develop self-sufficiency and personal discipline, and mitigate student food insecurity. The Food Systems emphasis takes the lessons learned through these campus sustainability initiatives to create a versatile and impactful undergraduate degree geared toward helping you learn how to encourage a culture of food production and consumption sustainability.

Western currently has relationships with several local food systems partners including Mountain Roots Food Project, the Gunnison Country Food Pantry and the Coldharbour Institute, which provide local sites for experimentation in regenerative agricultural practices to supplement and put your classroom knowledge into practice.

Learning by doing

The Food Systems emphasis works in conjunction with several campus sustainability organizations such as Organics Guild and the Chipeta Garden to provide experiential learning opportunities to supplement your work in the classroom.

Program Requirements

At Western, course rotations are crafted to encompass a variety of subject fields for a comprehensive education and versatile degree. For required courses and degree plans, visit the official University Catalog. Below is a general overview of courses at Western Colorado University related to this area of study.

Program Requirements 

The Food Systems emphasis will provide the skills to equip students to improve and stabilize food systems, alleviate hunger, and identify entrepreneurial opportunities in a rapidly changing sector. Working at the intersection of food production and distribution networks, students will graduate with an understanding of the assets and challenges facing existing food system structures and an ability to help build new relationships between food consumers and producers. 

A minimum of 64 credits is required for the Environment & Sustainability Comprehensive Major: Food Systems Emphasis. 

ENVS 100Introduction to Environment and Sustainability (GT-SS2)3
ENVS 200Writing the Environment3
ENVS 250Environmental Justice3
ENVS 301Science of Sustainability and Resilience3
ENVS 315Food Policy & Politics3
ENVS 325Introduction to Soil Science4
ENVS 350U.S. and Western Environmental Politics3
ENVS 385Sustainable Agriculture & Food Production4
ENVS 390Environmental Monitoring4
ENVS 400Applied Sustainability3
ENVS 410Environmental Ethics3
ENVS 435Environmental Grant Writing1
ENVS 499Internship in Environmental Studies3
NTR 305Community Nutrition3
Required Supporting Courses
GEOL 101Physical Geology (GT-SC2)3
GEOL 105Physical Geology Laboratory (GT-SC1)1
CHEM 101Introduction to Inorganic Chemistry (GT-SC2)3
BIOL 130Environmental Biology (GT-SC2)3
BIOL 135Environmental Biology Laboratory (GT-SC1)1
ECON 215Environmental Economics3
Select one of the following:1
HWTR 200
This Is The Headwaters
HWTR 398
Headwaters Conference
Select one of the following:3
ECON 216
Statistics for Business and Economics
MATH 113
Statistical Thinking (GT-MA1)
MATH 213
Probability and Statistics
SOC 211
Quantitative Research Methods
Select one of the following:3
ANTH 230
Cultural Anthropology (with laboratory)
ANTH 320
Cultural Ecology
ENG 151
Borderlands: Representing Race, Class, Gender, and Sexuality
POLS 250
Politics of the Environment
POLS 340
Politics of Social Movements
POLS 350
Human Rights
POLS 355
The Global South
POLS 370
Political Economy
PSY 308
Environmental Psychology
PSY 410
Multicultural Psychology
PSY 457
Social Psychology
SOC 150
Environmental Sociology
SOC 168
Social Problems
SOC 340
Social Movements
SOC 380
Social Inequalities
Total Credits64

Capstone Course Requirement

The following course in the Environment and Sustainability Major fulfills the capstone course requirement: ENVS 400 Applied Sustainability.

Graduation Requirements

Undergraduate programs require a minimum of 120 semester credits for graduation.  Of those 120 credits, 40 credits must be in upper-division courses (those marked 300 and above).  Fifteen of these 40 upper-division credits must be earned in courses that are part of the standard or comprehensive major program being pursued. 

Students are expected to review all graduation requirements, which can be found in the Western Undergraduate Catalog: Graduation Requirements

Degree Plan

Plan of Study Grid
Year One
BIOL 130 Environmental Biology (GT-SC2) 3
BIOL 135 Environmental Biology Laboratory (GT-SC1) 1
ENG 102 Academic Writing (GT-CO1) 3
ENVS 100 Introduction to Environment and Sustainability (GT-SS2) 3
Gen Ed General Education (Area I, II, or ) 3
HWTR 100 First Year Seminar 1
CHEM 101 Introduction to Inorganic Chemistry (GT-SC2) 3
COM 202 Academic Writing and Inquiry (GT-CO2) 3
Elective Elective or minor course 3
GEOL 101 Physical Geology (GT-SC2) 3
GEOL 105 Physical Geology Laboratory (GT-SC1) 1
MATH 113 Statistical Thinking (GT-MA1) 3
Year Two
Elective Elective or minor course 3
ENVS 200 Writing the Environment 3
ENVS 250 Environmental Justice 3
Gen Ed General Education (Area I, II, or III) 6
HWTR 398 Headwaters Conference 1
Elective Elective or minor course 3
ECON 215 Environmental Economics 3
Gen Ed General Education (Area I or III) 6
Gen Ed General Education (Area I, II, or III) 3
Year Three
Electivechosen from selection of classes on cultural, racial, ethnic, gender, sex, sexuality, and/or class contexts 3
ENVS 301 Science of Sustainability and Resilience 3
ENVS 325 Introduction to Soil Science 4
ENVS 350 U.S. and Western Environmental Politics 3
NTR 305 Community Nutrition 3
Elective Elective or minor course 8
ENVS 315 Food Policy & Politics 3
ENVS 390 Environmental Monitoring 4
ENVS 499 Internship in Environmental Studies (Recommended but optional) 3
Year Four
Elective Elective or minor course 6
ENVS 385 Sustainable Agriculture & Food Production 4
ENVS 410 Environmental Ethics 3
ENVS 435 Environmental Grant Writing 1
Elective Elective or minor course 9
ENVS 400 Applied Sustainability 3
ENVS 499 Internship in Environmental Studies (if not taken over summer) 3
 Total Credits124


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Alumni Association Future Alumni Scholarship

The Alumni Association Scholarship is a one-time scholarship of $1,000 and is applicable for the student’s junior or senior year at Western.

Any child or grandchild of an alumni is eligible to receive the Future Alumni Scholarship.

  • This is a one-time non-renewable scholarship of $1,000.
  • Only one Future Alumni Scholarship will be awarded per academic year.
  • GPA must be 3.2 or above (college).

Due date has been extended to April 1 for 2022. An Alumni selection committee, appointed by the Alumni Advisory Council, will review applicants and select awardee by June 1.


Alumni Legacy Scholarship

The Alumni Legacy Scholarship is a one-time non-renewable scholarship and is only applicable for the student’s first year at Western (incoming freshman or new transfer students are eligible).

Do you have a son or daughter looking at college? Have they considered attending Western? As an alumni, your son, daughter and/or grandchildren are eligible for certain benefits distributed through this scholarship, as follows:

  • This is a one-time scholarship of $1,000.
  • Nominee must be an incoming first-year student or new transfer.
  • The cost of orientation is reduced by half (a $45 value).
  • The admission application fee is waived (a $30 value).
  • GPA must be 2.5 or above (high school or college of transfer).

The applicant must fill out the application form found below. Application forms are accepted year-round. If the applicant meets the GPA guidelines, the scholarship will be awarded.


Mountaineer Alumni Recommendation Scholarship

The Mountaineer Alumni Recommendation Scholarship is a one-time non-renewable scholarship and is only applicable for the student’s first year at Western. This scholarship is not available to midyear transfers or students beginning in the spring semester.

Are you an alumni or employee of Western and know a prospective (or incoming) student who would be a great fit at Western? A recommendation from alumni and employees can support any new student and provide them a $500 scholarship their first year. (Western employees may not recommend a spouse or dependent receiving tuition benefits).

  • Any Western alumni/employee may nominate only one student per academic year to receive the $500 scholarship (distributed $250 per semester).
  • The scholarship is good for the first year only and is non-renewable.
  • The recommended student must be a full-time undergraduate student, attending Western for the first time.

The applicant must fill out the application form found here. The nominating alumni/employee must fill out the application form and submit the required documents by June 1. The recommended student must meet university admissions acceptance standards and complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).

The Presidential Promise is guaranteed to students who have received a scholarship through the Denver Scholarship Foundation (DSF) and/or GearUp—and are eligible for a Pell Grant.

For students who meet these criteria, Western will cover the cost of tuition and fees through the combination of federal, state and institutional aid. For more information on the Presidential Promise, visit our scholarships page.


The Western Presidential Honors Scholarships, established by the Jack and Marilyn MacAllister Foundation shall be an elite class of scholarships awarded to Western’s highest achieving and most deserving students, celebrating the ideals of academic excellence and service to the campus and community. Recipients of the Scholarships will be members of the Western Colorado University Honors Program.

There are eight Presidential Honors Scholarships of $2500 each. Each year two new Presidential Honors Scholarships will be awarded to two incoming first-year students.

Western Undergraduate Exchange (WUE) or Central Plains (CP) tuition represents a substantial savings relative to normal, out-of-state tuition. Students eligible for the WUE or CP program will be charged 150% of Western’s total in-state tuition. For 2018-19, total in-state tuition was $8,934. WUE/CP tuition was $13,401. The WUE/CP discount is valued at $4,695.

For more information about the WUE and CP geography-based programs, visit Western’s Tuition Discount Programs Page.

Immediately upon acceptance at Western, every student is considered for a merit scholarship worth between $2,500-$4,500 per year for in-state students and $8,000-$10,000 for out-of-state students. The amount is based on the student’s GPA and ACT/SAT scores. Visit our Net Price Calculator at western.edu/cost to determine whether you qualify for a merit scholarship.

For more information about merit scholarships at Western, visit our scholarships page.

Get Involved

Learn through hands-on practice.

Get the experiential learning experience you need to apply your knowledge and launch your career.
Clubs & Organizations: Join the Organics Guild, Western Solar Society, Sustainability Coalition, or Wildlife Society.

  • Coldharbour Institute: Experiment with sustainable building design, resilient food systems, or community organizing in the Gunnison Valley.
  • Conferences: Attend the Headwaters Conference, the Colorado Water Workshop, and Sage Grouse Spring Symposium.
  • Earthship Academy: Learn how to construct a self-sustaining building capable of producing food and saving energy.
  • High Country News: Check out the independent news source’s new satellite office located in Kelley Hall.
  • Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory: Find a research assistantship at one of the premier biological research stations in the world.
  • Solar Energy International: Engage in the local, regional, or global conversation about the renewable energy era.

Building a foundation for success

Food security is key for any community, and the Food Systems emphasis will help you learn how to work toward this through promoting sustainability initiatives and encouraging food self-sufficiency.

News & Research

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John C. Hausdoerffer, Ph.D.

Dean, Clark Family School of Environment & Sustainability

Program Facilitator

Lindsay Dolezal

Program Facilitator - Clark Family School

Contact Information



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