Community and environmental sociology explores the communities in which people live and the relationships between people and their natural environments. Using an integrative approach, the major provides students a broad view of the societal factors involved in issues of environment, food systems, health, and community development, as well as strategies for promoting a more just and sustainable world.

Through core courses, students receive foundational knowledge in sociology and select from a wide range of electives covering environmental stewardship, resource conflicts, public health, social change, social justice, agroecology, rural development, labor, science and technology, colonialism, and globalization.

Graduates go on to a wide variety of careers in environmental conservation, community and international development, food systems, law, public policy, sociology, and public health – in the private, public, and non-profit sectors. A Community and Environmental Sociology major also provides excellent preparation for graduate school. Alumni hold positions as directors, managers, administrators, policy makers, data analysts, planners, consultants, researchers, teachers, health care workers, and civil servants.

Learn through hands-on, real-world experience

Students can apply their course learning to real life through internships, field courses, and research projects. During their final year, majors complete a senior capstone course where they work with local community groups to address specific challenges or explore social and environmental problems through case studies.

Build community and networks

Students get to know faculty and instructors through departmental courses and social activities, and they can build their networks by participating in student organizations, internships, and research experiences.

Customize a path of study

In addition to a set of core courses, students choose from a wide array of electives to explore their areas of interest within the major. Many choose to add a certificate or double major to their degree. Common certificate options include global health, food systems, organic agriculture, science and technology policy, and environmental studies. Common second majors include environmental sciences, nutritional sciences, agronomy, biology, and wildlife ecology.

Make a strong start

An introductory course provides an overview of topics such as community organizing, local food systems, energy transitions, environmental justice, resource dependence, and sustainable development.

Gain global perspectives

Majors learn about different cultures, communities, and environments through the classes they take, and many choose to study abroad to further expand their perspectives. Majors can choose semester-long programs or summer opportunities at top universities in Africa, Asia, Europe, and Latin America, or shorter faculty-led study abroad experiences. Students can explore studying abroad as a Community and Environmental Sociology major by utilizing the  Community and Environmental Sociology Major Advising Page. Students work with their advisor and the CALS study abroad office to identify appropriate programs.  

To declare this major, students must be admitted to UW–Madison and the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences (CALS). For information about becoming a CALS first-year or transfer student, see Entering the College.

Students who attend Student Orientation, Advising, and Registration (SOAR) with the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences have the option to declare this major at SOAR.  Students may otherwise declare after they have begun their undergraduate studies. For more information, contact the advisor listed in the Contact Box for the major.

University General Education Requirements

All undergraduate students at the University of Wisconsin–Madison are required to fulfill a minimum set of common university general education requirements to ensure that every graduate acquires the essential core of an undergraduate education. This core establishes a foundation for living a productive life, being a citizen of the world, appreciating aesthetic values, and engaging in lifelong learning in a continually changing world. Various schools and colleges will have requirements in addition to the requirements listed below. Consult your advisor for assistance, as needed. For additional information, see the university Undergraduate General Education Requirements section of the Guide.

General Education
  • Breadth—Humanities/Literature/Arts: 6 credits
  • Breadth—Natural Science: 4 to 6 credits, consisting of one 4- or 5-credit course with a laboratory component; or two courses providing a total of 6 credits
  • Breadth—Social Studies: 3 credits
  • Communication Part A & Part B *
  • Ethnic Studies *
  • Quantitative Reasoning Part A & Part B *

* The mortarboard symbol appears before the title of any course that fulfills one of the Communication Part A or Part B, Ethnic Studies, or Quantitative Reasoning Part A or Part B requirements.

College of Agricultural and Life Sciences Requirements

In addition to the University General Education Requirements, all undergraduate students in CALS must satisfy a set of college and major requirements. Courses may not double count within university requirements (General Education and Breadth) or within college requirements (First-Year Seminar, International Studies, Science, and Capstone), but courses counted toward university requirements may also be used to satisfy a college and/or a major requirement; similarly, courses counted toward college requirements may also be used to satisfy a university and/or a major requirement.

College Requirements for all CALS B.S. Degree Programs

Quality of Work: Students must maintain a minimum cumulative grade point average of 2.000 to remain in good standing and be eligible for graduation.
Residency: Students must complete 30 degree credits in residence at UW–Madison after earning 86 credits toward their undergraduate degree.
First Year Seminar1
International Studies3
Physical Science Fundamentals4-5
General Chemistry I
Chemistry in Our World
Advanced General Chemistry
Biological Science5
Additional Science (Biological, Physical, or Natural)3
Science Breadth (Biological, Physical, Natural, or Social)3
CALS Capstone Learning Experience: included in the requirements for each CALS major (see "Major Requirements")

Major Requirements

C&E SOC/​SOC  140 Introduction to Community and Environmental Sociology4
C&E SOC/​SOC  475 Classical Sociological Theory3
C&E SOC/​SOC  357 Methods of Sociological Inquiry3-4
C&E SOC/​SOC  360 Statistics for Sociologists I 14
Electives within the Major 215
Select 6-9 credits from the Community course set 3
Select 6-9 credits from the Environment course set 3
C&E SOC 500 Capstone Experience3
Total Credits32-33

We strongly encourage our majors to take C&E SOC/​SOC  360 Statistics for Sociologists I, if they have not already taken a statistics course at time of major declaration. Acceptable statistics courses other than C&E SOC/​SOC  360 Statistics for Sociologists I are: STAT 301 Introduction to Statistical Methods, STAT 371 Introductory Applied Statistics for the Life Sciences, ECON 310 Statistics: Measurement in Economics, PSYCH 210 Basic Statistics for Psychology, GEOG 360 Quantitative Methods in Geographical Analysis, and MATH/​STAT  310 Introduction to Probability and Mathematical Statistics II.  Please note that statistics courses taken outside the major do not count toward the credit requirement in the major.


Must complete a total of 15 credits of Community and Environment electives. No more than 6 credits may be 100- or 200-level courses. At least 6 credits must be taken in each course set.


Consult advisor to request permission to use C&E SOC 299 Independent Study, C&E SOC 399 Coordinative Internship/Cooperative Education, or C&E SOC 699 Special Problems toward the Community or Environmental course sets. No more than 4 such credits may be counted toward the major.

Elective Courses within the Major

Community Course Set

C&E SOC/​SOC  210 Survey of Sociology3-4
C&E SOC/​SOC  211 The Sociological Enterprise3
C&E SOC 215 3
C&E SOC/​SOC  245 Technology and Society3
C&E SOC/​SOC  341 Labor in Global Food Systems3
C&E SOC/​SOC  365 Data Management for Social Science Research3-4
C&E SOC 375 Special Topics1-4
C&E SOC 380 3
C&E SOC/​CURRIC/​ENVIR ST  405 Education for Sustainable Communities3
C&E SOC/​SOC  532 Health Care Issues for Individuals, Families and Society3
C&E SOC/​SOC  533 Public Health in Rural & Urban Communities3
C&E SOC/​ENVIR ST/​SOC  540 Sociology of International Development, Environment, and Sustainability3
C&E SOC/​AGRONOMY/​MED HIST/​PHILOS  565 The Ethics of Modern Biotechnology3
C&E SOC/​SOC  573 Community Organization and Change3
C&E SOC/​AMER IND/​SOC  578 Poverty and Place3
C&E SOC/​SOC/​URB R PL  617 Community Development3
C&E SOC 623 3
C&E SOC/​SOC  630 Sociology of Developing Societies/Third World3
C&E SOC/​SOC/​URB R PL  645 Modern American Communities3
C&E SOC/​SOC  652 Sociology of Economic Institutions3
C&E SOC 655 3
C&E SOC/​SOC  676 Applied Demography: Planning and Policy3
C&E SOC/​SOC  693 Practicum in Analysis and Research3

Environment Course Set

C&E SOC/​AGROECOL/​AGRONOMY/​ENTOM/​ENVIR ST  103 Agroecology: An Introduction to the Ecology of Food and Agriculture3
C&E SOC/​SOC  222 Food, Culture, and Society3
C&E SOC 230 3
C&E SOC/​F&W ECOL/​SOC  248 Environment, Natural Resources, and Society3
C&E SOC/​A A E/​SOC  340 Issues in Food Systems3-4
C&E SOC 375 Special Topics1-4
C&E SOC/​CURRIC/​ENVIR ST  405 Education for Sustainable Communities3
C&E SOC/​ENVIR ST/​GEOG  434 People, Wildlife and Landscapes3
C&E SOC/​ENVIR ST/​SOC  540 Sociology of International Development, Environment, and Sustainability3
C&E SOC/​SOC  541 Environmental Stewardship and Social Justice3
C&E SOC/​AGRONOMY/​MED HIST/​PHILOS  565 The Ethics of Modern Biotechnology3
C&E SOC/​SOC  650 Sociology of Agriculture3
C&E SOC/​SOC  693 Practicum in Analysis and Research3

Credit Requirement

Must complete a total of 30 credits of C&E SOC courses. Students may count up to 4 credits of Independent Study (C&E SOC 299 Independent Study, C&E SOC 699 Special Problems), Internship (C&E SOC 399 Coordinative Internship/Cooperative Education),  or Thesis (C&E SOC 681 Senior Honors Thesis/C&E SOC 682 Senior Honors Thesis/C&E SOC 691 Senior Thesis/C&E SOC 692 Senior Thesis) here, with permission of their advisor.

University Degree Requirements

Total Degree To receive a bachelor's degree from UW–Madison, students must earn a minimum of 120 degree credits. The requirements for some programs may exceed 120 degree credits. Students should consult with their college or department advisor for information on specific credit requirements.
Residency Degree candidates are required to earn a minimum of 30 credits in residence at UW–Madison. "In residence" means on the UW–Madison campus with an undergraduate degree classification. “In residence” credit also includes UW–Madison courses offered in distance or online formats and credits earned in UW–Madison Study Abroad/Study Away programs.
Quality of Work Undergraduate students must maintain the minimum grade point average specified by the school, college, or academic program to remain in good academic standing. Students whose academic performance drops below these minimum thresholds will be placed on academic probation.
  1. Understand how social science arguments are constructed and evaluated.
  2. Develop ability to assess data quality and understand whether particular data is appropriate to answer specific questions.
  3. Learn general theories on basic social processes, especially those related to the relationships between society and the environment and the social organization of communities.
  4. Learn communication skills in the social sciences.

Four-year plan

Sample Community AND Environmental Sociology Four-Year Plan

COMM A or COMM B Course2-3COMM A or COMM B Course2-3
C&E SOC/​SOC  1404CHEM 103, 108, or 1094-5
First Year Seminar1C&E SOC Elective23
Electives18Electives (to reach ~15 credits)4-6
 15-16 13-17
Total Credits 28-33
C&E SOC/​SOC  3573C&E SOC/​SOC  3604
C&E SOC Elective23C&E SOC Elective23
Ethnic Studies3Biological Science Course2
Electives6Humanities Elective3
 Additional Electives3
 15 15
Total Credits 30
C&E SOC/​SOC  4753C&E SOC Elective23
C&E SOC Elective23International Studies3
Biological Science3Additional Science Course3
Additional Electives6Electives6
 15 15
Total Credits 30
C&E SOC 5003 3Humanities3
 15 15
Total Credits 30

Electives should be chosen in order to satisfy university and CALS requirements. See Requirements tab for details.


C&E SOC electives include the Community course set and the Environmental course set. See Requirements tab for details.


Students may take the capstone course either semester of their senior year. The fall semester and spring semester courses may have different content. 


The above plan assumes that a student enters with standard high school preparation (algebra, geometry, third-year math, two years’ foreign language).


Students have an academic advisor who helps them with course planning and mapping out their degree plans. They also have a faculty mentor, with whom they can discuss internship opportunities and career goals.

Career opportunities

Graduates go on to a wide variety of careers that help support environmental sustainability, sustainable agricultural systems, community development, and public health – in the private, public, and non-profit sectors. The major also provides excellent preparation for graduate school. Alumni hold professional positions as directors, managers, administrators, policy makers, data analysts, planners, consultants, researchers, teachers, health care workers, and civil servants.

Samer Alatout
Michael Bell
Katherine Curtis
Nan Enstad (chair)
Noah Feinstein
Josh Garoon
Michaela Hoffelmeyer
Malia Jones
Sarah Rios
Randy Stoecker
Monica White

Megan Banaszak


Many students complete internships, including with campus clubs, community groups, and national and international non-profit organizations. Learn more about internship opportunities.

Research experience

Community and Environmental Sociology majors can gain research experience by participating in a faculty-led research project or conducting their own project supervised by a faculty member. Students can choose to write thesis papers, and some become authors or co-authors on published research papers.

Global engagement

Majors are encouraged to participate in study abroad experiences across all continents. Options include a sustainable development course in Uganda, a food systems and health course in South Africa, and many other options.

Community engagement and volunteering

There are many opportunities to engage in volunteer activities. The Morgridge Center for Public Service provides resources to help students connect with volunteer opportunities based on their interests and goals.

Student organizations

There are numerous campus student organizations of interest to majors, including F.H. King Students for Sustainable Agriculture, Campus Food Shed, and REthink Wisconsin. A full list of UW–Madison student organizations is available on the Wisconsin Involvement Network website.


Students in the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences receive more than $1.25 million in scholarships annually. Learn more about college scholarships.

The Department of Community and Environmental Sociology awards an average of $15,000 in scholarships each year to undergraduate students in the department. This includes numerous Crowe Scholarships, which are awarded to students to support research, study abroad, conference fees, and professional society memberships. Crowe Scholarships are also awarded for financial need and academic achievement. Learn more about Community and Environmental Sociology scholarships.