Illustration of a tree with roots representing Learning Outcomes, and the crown of the tree listing core curriculum class titles.The Core Curriculum of the Rubenstein School is designed to cultivate the skills and knowledge that we believe are central to the study of natural resources and the environment. The Core Curriculum's seven required courses (25 total credits) are taken sequentially and cut across all academic programs within the School, integrating the natural and social sciences to foster a deeper understanding of complex environmental issues.

Goal Statement

By offering a scaffolded set of required core courses grounded in environmental and natural resource content, we prepare our students to successfully integrate and apply knowledge across disciplinary boundaries in their personal and professional lives. Students will embody the values central to the mission of the Rubenstein School, develop leadership and problem solving skills, participate in experiential learning, and identify areas for personal growth and continuous improvement.

Core Course Descriptions

NR 1010 students on R/V Melosira

NR 1010 + 2020 Natural History and Human Ecology

A two-semester course with introduction to dynamics of the natural world and basic concepts of biological, chemical, physical, and ecological sciences and application and interpretation of quantitative measurements. Emphasis on social/cultural perspectives and environmental history, values, and ethics with application to natural resource and environmental policy. (4 + 4 credits)

People talking in group near lake

NR 1050 Critical Reflection and Dialogue

An opportunity for First-Year students to develop skills of critical reflection and dialogue through the examination of several environmental issues, and to build strong working relationships with peers and faculty. Includes nuanced, personal conversations in small and large groups, and considers disparate viewpoints and experiences. (1 credit)

Students in lecture hall

NR 1060 Race and Culture in Natural Resources

Introduces the first-year student to issues of race and culture and their relevance to society, natural resources, and the environment. (3 credits)

Class at Shelburne Farms

NR 1090 Vermont: Natural and Cultural History

Introduces students transferring into the Rubenstein School to natural resources and the environment from biological, ecological, and social/cultural perspectives. This course is taken in place of NR 1010 + 1020. (4 credits)

Students and instructor in woods

NR 2030 Ecology, Ecosystems and Environment

Major ecological concepts and their application. Analysis of form, structure and function of organisms, populations, communities, ecosystems and landscapes. (3 credits)

Group of students

NR 2040 Social Processes and the Environment

Social science theories and their application to environmental issues. Analysis of issues using theories of government, economics, and social movements. Emphasis on integrating frameworks to analyze environmental issues. (3 credits)

Instructor pointing out something in tree tops to students

NR 3050 Ecosystem Management: Integrating science, society and policy

Integration of natural and social science into ecosystem management and policy. Consideration of ecosystem integrity, ecosystem degradation, human needs and values and the application of management principles within a holistic context. (3 credits)

Students using GPS in forest

NR 4060 Environmental Problem Solving and Impact Assessment

Group dynamics, impact assessment, risk assessment and decision making. Emphasis on the process of solving complex environmental problems, interdisciplinary team work, and the National Environmental Policy Act. (4 credits)

Core Competencies and Knowledge Areas


1 - Communication: Students will be able to employ effective speaking, writing, listening, and digital communication techniques. Communication Rubric, Part A (PDF)
Communication Rubric, Part B (PDF)

2 - Teamwork: Students will be able to contribute to collaborative efforts, facilitate contributions of others, and address conflict directly and constructively.
Teamwork Rubric (PDF)

3 - Working Across Difference: Students will be able to critically examine dimensions of difference and apply a nuanced understanding of power and privilege through effective communication.
Working Across Difference Rubric (PDF)

4 - Problem Solving: Students will be able to design, evaluate, and employ appropriate frameworks in order to effect change and generate collaborative solutions to complex problems.
Problem Solving Rubric (PDF)

5 - Inquiry & Analysis: Students will be able to apply critical thinking skills and employ qualitative and quantitative methodologies in order to formulate questions and evaluate core knowledge areas.
Inquiry & Analysis Rubric, Part A (PDF)
Inquiry & Analysis Rubric, Part B (PDF)

6 - Integrative Learning: Students will be able to synthesize and transfer learning to complex situations across disciplinary boundaries through the application of critical reflection skills.
Integrative Learning Rubric (PDF)

Knowledge Areas

7 - Ecological Processes & Systems: Students will be able to identify and describe basic ecological processes and systems.

8 - Social Processes & Systems: Students will be able to identify, interpret, and analyze cultural, economic, historical, and political dynamics of environmental issues.

9 - Planning & Management: Students will be able to describe effective strategies in ecological planning, management, stewardship, and conservation of natural resources.

10 - Sustainability: Students will be able to discuss social, economic, and ecological principles of sustainability.