Student Stories

BS-ES Student Stories: Transforming Passion into Action with Georgetown’s New Degree in Environment & Sustainability

Georgetown’s BS in Environment & Sustainability empowers students to take on environmental challenges

As a generation of young people consider their collective future, many consider their own prospects to be intertwined with the future of the planet. As the effects of climate change and other environmental issues come more clearly into focus, Georgetown students like Zoe Gutherman (CAS ‘27) and Sophia Rose Monsalvo (CAS ‘26) have decided to act on what world leaders are calling the “great existential challenge of our lifetime.”

Sophia Rose Monsalvo (CAS ’26) feels that the faculty genuinely value her contributions, supporting and challenging her to push barriers within the program.

“I remember learning about climate change in my eighth grade earth science class,” Zoe, a sophomore in the program, recalls, “and it was one of the first times I had to conceptualize how great of an impact human actions have on the environment. This led to my interest in environmental science and how it intersects with human behavior and responsibility.”

Georgetown’s Joint Environment & Sustainability Program, offered by the College of Arts & Sciences and the Earth Commons—Georgetown’s Institute for Environment & Sustainability— offers students a chance to transform their talents and drive into positive changes in the world. For students like Zoe and Sophia, this felt like the perfect fit: the program’s interdisciplinary approach—combining science, policy, ethics, and communication—allows students to understand and tackle environmental challenges from multiple perspectives.

Sophia and Zoe’s classmate, Diane Li, emphasizes the importance of a community focus. “My goal is to fully comprehend the systemic barriers that impede environmental justice,” she says. “From there, I aim to combat such barriers and spark reciprocity in the communities that I’m in.”

“The greatest thing I have received from the program, besides the wonderful exposure to the intellectual material, is the ability to speak up for what I believe in and to make sure that my voice is heard,” says Sophia, now entering her junior year. “This program aims to shine a light on the interactions of the environment and our community, which I have come to see as synonymous with one another. The injustice enacted on people is deeply intertwined with land, earth, and water. As a community, we are going to change the world—and this program emphasizes this in and outside of the classroom.”

The program fosters a sense of community and inclusivity among its students and faculty. “My professors have invested greatly in my personal and academic development,” adds Sophia. “As the only African-American, Latina woman in this program, I bring a unique perspective to these traditionally white dominated spaces. I feel the faculty within the program genuinely value my presence and contributions to the space, as well as support and challenge me to continue to push barriers within it.”

Zoe Gutherman (CAS ‘27) says the program’s interdisciplinary approach, combining science, policy, ethics, and communication to address environmental challenges helps her explore her interest in how environmental science intersects with human behavior.

The BS in Environment & Sustainability curriculum also emphasizes the importance of policy, advocacy, and communication. With custom pathways, experiential rotations, and the Capitol Campus location, the curriculum prepares students to engage with decision-makers and influence environmental legislation and public awareness.

As they look ahead, both students are optimistic about their future and the future of the planet. Zoe says, “The key may be removing any perceived separation between human beings and our environment. Instead of seeing the environment as something separate or something to possess, we should aim to see humans as a part of the environment. Then, we can create a positive, reciprocal relationship—and a more sustainable future.”

Sophia has her sights set on changing public perception in the future. “I see myself connecting community-based organizations for conservation and environmental peacebuilding with academic and political institutions internationally. I want to share stories of how communities have come together to heal themselves and our environment. This degree is already helping me get one step closer to this reality.”

In a world where the impacts of climate change are increasingly visible, the Joint Environment & Sustainability Program at Georgetown offers a beacon of hope. For Zoe, Sophia, Diane and their peers, this program is more than an academic pursuit; it’s a pathway to making a lasting difference.