Our Vision

Our vision is to direct and combine the diverse energies, assets and activities of the Faculty of Environmental Studies to become the premier location for interdisciplinary, analytical and collaborative research, education and action on critical and changing environmental issues.

Our mandate is to provide unsurpassed opportunities for interdisciplinary teaching, learning and research about natural, built, social, cultural, and political-economic environments and the dynamic relationships between these. Dedicated to inspiring active-learners and engaged citizens, we are a community that respects and values insight, creativity, justice, and diversity and that works to promote significant social and environmental change toward the creation of a more equitable and sustainable world through imaginative and critical thought, and concerted action.

Dean’s Message

Alice J. Hovorka

Alice J. Hovorka


Faculty of Environmental Studies, York University

Our lives are intricately connected with the environment. We depend on the natural world for water, food, and shelter to survive, and our health and wellbeing to thrive. We adapt to and modify the environment to attain these basic human needs and shape our desired lifestyles. Every year we demand more from the natural world than it can replenish. The consequences are felt in the earth’s climate, lands, and oceans, and by the animals and plants upon whom we depend. Access to and use of nature, as well as the impacts of environmental degradation, are not equally distributed around the world or in our localities, creating inequalities and injustices of many kinds in our societies.

At the Faculty of Environmental Studies (FES) we are committed to exploring and understanding the relationships between humans and the environment. For fifty years, FES faculty and students have been working at the frontiers of knowledge, actively connecting environmental theory with action and seeking sustainable and just solutions to environmental problems.

Join us in celebrating our fifty years of environmental education, research, and leadership. Better yet, come explore with us! Whether you are in interested in renewable energy or urban politics, Indigenous environmental knowledge or food studies, citizen science or engaging the arts for environmental activism, FES offers programs for you. Our approach is interdisciplinary, drawing on the full range of academic approaches and methods to address challenges that are complex and dynamic. We offer undergraduate and graduate degree programs, as well as a range of undergraduate certificates, dual degree options, and graduate diplomas. We are committed to experiential education and the application of knowledge to address environmental problems.

FES programs prepare students for success in a growing environmental job market. Over 3,000 graduates now work around the world, playing vital roles in government, business, and non-profit agencies. We are based in Toronto but teach, research and collaborate with communities in over thirty countries. Browse our website, scan our faculty members’ profiles, and explore what current students and alumni are doing. FES may just be the place you are looking for.

Our History

The Faculty of Environmental Studies at York University was founded in 1968 at a time of rising curiosity and concern about the environment. It was the first of its kind in North America and remains the largest. An interdisciplinary approach informs all its programs which include a Bachelor’s (BES), Master’s (MES) and Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) degree in Environmental Studies.

The Faculty’s pioneering spirit created a program that crossed boundaries, created supportive structures for student-centred learning, encouraged linkages between theory and practice, offered opportunities for experiential learning with communities and real life projects, encouraged a focus on environmental studies that combined the sciences, social sciences, humanities, and the profession of planning. It also offered students dedicated faculty who exemplified boundary crossing in their own research and teaching and who were appointed full-time within the Faculty rather than cross-appointed from other units.

It all started with the Master’s program. The sole program offered when the Faculty was born in 1968, our Master’s program originally hosted only a small group of students. Instead of a fixed curriculum for all, students, working closely with faculty advisors, devise their own program of study and the learning strategies that will allow them to meet their academic objectives. Within the MES program, students may also apply to do a joint MES-JD degree with Osgoode Hall Law School; pursue the MES planning program that leads to a master’s degree accredited by the Canadian Institute of Planners and the Ontario Professional Planners Institute or follow Diploma programs in Business & the Environment, Environmental Sustainability Education and Refugee & Migration Studies. The Master’s of Environmental Studies program is a central component of the Faculty and it is the second largest Master’s program at York University. Its alumni number over 2,800 and can be found in key positions within the public and private sectors of Canadian society and the global community.

The BES program was introduced in 1991 with approximately 100 students. It has since grown to an annual intake of 230 students and an overall enrolment of approximately 850 students. The program contains four theme areas: Environmental politics: development, globalization and justice; Urban & regional environments: analysis, planning and design; Environment & culture: philosophy, arts, technology and education; and Environmental management: policy, resources and conservation. Though most students are interested in the environmental management and applied aspects of the program, a central focus of the program is the development of theoretical inquiry, critical reading, writing and presentation skills. The program offers certificates in community arts practice, geographic information systems and remote sensing, and refugee and migration studies. Students can also pursue concurrent degrees with the Faculties of Arts, Education and Fine Arts.

The PhD program was also introduced in 1991. It is the only program of its kind in Canada. Six to eight students have, with some exceptions, been admitted to the program annually but that figure was increased to 12 in 2007. The PhD students form a substantial part of the teaching staff in the Faculty, serving both as teaching assistants and course instructors. Two identified key areas of focus are Nature, Culture and Society and Environments, Institutions and Interventions, but students are also encouraged to define their own area within the context of environmental studies. The majority of PhD graduates have become career academics in a variety of disciplines, including environmental design, environmental studies, political science, history, forestry, international development, sociology, and geography. Others are consultants, public servants, business people, or hold other professional positions.

The Faculty is well known for its training of various types of planners who can be found in the highest academic, government, and private consultant ranks nationally and internationally. The Faculty has also hosted major international development projects that generated research and research funds for large groups of students and faculty members. The Faculty is also internationally renowned for its work in environmental thought and philosophy. In recent years, the Faculty has emerged in the forefront of research on urban environmental issues and in cultural and environmental sustainability.


FES is committed to social justice. There are many opportunities for students to get involved in promoting equity in the daily life of the Faculty: becoming a student representative on FES governing committees; participating in workshops organized by the Teaching Commons; joining pan-university efforts toward more equitable practices through campus organizations, unions, and the Senate Committees on Equity, Awards, and Research; organizing seminars including the FES Speakers Series in 2014-15 with the Transforming Violent Environments & 2016-2017 focused on Indigenous environmental justice and, as well as, workshops within the Faculty to address equity issues.

The FES Equity Committee identifies and raises equity issues in the faculty in order to promote the commitment to equity by all members. We use an intersectional approach to equity that examines the intersections of class, race, gender, sex, (dis)ability, status and location. We provide input to procedures pertinent to equity, e.g., affirmative action, recruitment, admissions, faculty appointments, and curricula, and present proposals to the Committee of Instruction and/or Faculty Council.

The Faculty of Environmental Studies Equity Committee meets once every month, September through May, from 10:00am to 11:30am in Room 143, Health, Nursing and Environmental Studies ( HNES ) Building, Keele Campus. All are welcomed and encouraged to attend.

Our Community