CHE place-based workshop participants on a sandy bluff overlooking a river

The CHE certificate, administered by the Nelson Institute's Center for Culture, History, and Environment, captures the spirit of interdisciplinarity at the heart of CHE and 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, Art History, 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, Limnology, and Zoology.

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 contributes in important ways to the understanding of past, present, and future environmental issues through interdisciplinary education and research.

Through the CHE Environmental History Colloquia, the annual Place-Based Workshops, and the Graduate Symposium, 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.

CHE is not available as a stand-alone graduate degree. Master's and doctoral students who complete the requirements receive a certificate in CHE to supplement their graduate degree, or doctoral students can instead complete the program as an external minor. Doctoral students cannot claim CHE as both a certificate and an external minor; they must choose one or the other.

To apply:

  1. Find a CHE faculty associate who is willing to serve as your CHE advisor.
  2. Complete the form available here and submit with an unofficial transcript.
  3. Apply through the UW-Madison Graduate Student Portal.

All Graduate School students must utilize the Graduate Student Portal in MyUW to add, change, or discontinue any major/named option, doctoral minor, or graduate/professional certificate.  To apply to this certificate, please log in to MyUW, click on Graduate Student Portal, and then click on Add/Change Programs.  The certificate coordinator will review your application for admittance, and reach out to you if they have any further questions.

Admission process: CHE Curriculum Committee reviews applications on a rolling schedule.

Certificate students must complete 12 credits including an interdisciplinary methods seminar (ENVIR ST 922 Historical and Cultural Methods in Environmental Research) and a thematically coherent selection of courses relating to past environmental and cultural change. Courses 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 plan of study, it must be reviewed and approved by the CHE curriculum subcommittee.

The plan of study must be relevant to the student’s chosen area of focus. The area of focus should be related to human dimensions of an environmental issue and should be distinct from the focus of their major program. Examples of areas of focus include (but are certainly not limited to):

  • posthumanism and the human-wildlife interface
  • critical engagements with conservation science
  • feminist political ecology and/or ecofeminisms
  • history of indigenous landscapes and cultures in Central America
  • environmental justice and Latinx, Black, and/or other minoritized communities in the US
  • food insecurity and sovereignty
  • the literature and/or art of polluted spaces
  1. Gain knowledge of human dimensions of the environment, by learning about the diverse interests, experiences and meanings that different people have associated with the natural world.
  2. Become familiar with different methodologies associated with the environmental humanities.
  3. Deploy diverse methods - including and especially historical and cultural methods - to approach, interpret, and explain environmental change across space and/or time.