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 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.

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: Find a CHE faculty associate who is willing to serve as your CHE advisor. Complete the form available here and submit with an unofficial transcript.

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

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.

  1. Gain an understanding of a significant variety of disciplinary approaches to the study of environmental change and the interactions of humans with the natural environment.
  2. Learn to use differing forms of evidence and methods of analysis that can be employed to understand past environmental change and its human meanings.

Faculty Executive program committee

Anna Andrzejewski (Center Director and Certificate/Minor Chair), Rachel Gurney (Assistant Director, Ex Officio), William Brockliss, Eve Emshwiller, Elizabeth Hennessy, Gregg Mitman, Mario Ortiz-Robles, Anna Gade (Ex Officio)