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Degrees in Environmental Sciences Prepare Students for Future Careers

February 14, 2018

Assistant Professor and Chair of the Environmental Sciences Department, Spruce Schoenemann, was excited about the recent recognition of the Department and University, recently ranked nationally among the top five “Best Colleges for Environmental Science Degree Programs 2017-18” by, an online education resource.

Spruce Schoenemann

“What makes the Environmental Sciences Department a top ranked program is the combination of small class sizes, projects directly related to research or local stakeholders, frequent guest lectures from professionals in the field of environmental science, and excellent teaching,” Schoenemann said.

Comprehensive data on over 500 schools provided by The National Center for Education Statistics was analyzed to produce the list. Several factors, including affordability, flexibility and student success led to list the University of Montana Western’s Environmental Sciences Program as #5 in the country. The other schools in the top five include SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry, Humboldt State University, the University of Vermont, and the University of California, Berkeley.

The University of Montana Western is the only public four-year institution to offer Experience One, a block scheduling program that allows students to focus on one course at a time for 18 consecutive days.

The schedule allows Environmental Sciences students at Montana Western to study geology in Yellowstone National Park, work with non-profits like The Nature Conservancy to restore local wetlands, and gather data on local streams for Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks.


Professor Rob Thomas is especially proud of the work students in the major have done at the Big Hole River.

“Something that should be noted is the 10+ years we have worked on the fluvial Arctic grayling recovery project on the upper Big Hole River. Students have been assessing stream function and habitat associated with a stream rehabilitation effort to recover this species. The work has been a cooperative effort between the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks, private land owners (ranchers), The Nature Conservancy and the Environmental Sciences Department.”

This work brought publicity to the University that helped raise the prestige of the Department.

“Our program is well known due to this study, and it was the reason I received the Carnegie/CASE U.S. Professor of the Year award in 2009. We have had governors, senators and other dignitaries on location with us in the field, and the work was featured on ‘Home Ground,’ a Montana Public Radio program,” said Thomas.

Experiences like this allow students to leave the program with impressive portfolios making them highly sought after by employers. The job placement rate for the Environmental Sciences Program is over 90% within two years of graduation.

“Students should be very proud to say that they graduated or will graduate from one of the top five environmental sciences programs in the country,” Thomas said.


Schoenemann encourages interested parties to join the program but to be prepared for the hard work that goes along with studying at one of the top environmental science departments in the country.

“The Environmental Sciences Department has an uncompromising dedication to environmental science and sustainability. Students take one course at a time and work in the field on real projects. The programs are competitive, demanding and built for students with passion and enthusiasm for the environment. We work hard and have high expectations of each other to do the best work possible. It’s demanding, but transformational. It’s education for a lifetime.”

For more information about the University of Montana Western’s Environmental Sciences degree offerings, visit the Department’s webpage or call 406-683-7624.