Certificate in Environmental Writing

The Undergraduate Certificate in Environmental Writing (CEW) is a fantastic offering for Illinois students wanting to engage with the latest research in sustainability science — and to build their skills in environmental communication.

The certificate is a joint venture of iSEE, the School for Earth, Society, and Environment, and the English Department, and is at the cutting edge of interdisciplinary sustainability programs in the nation.

The motto of the CEW is “turning data into narrative” — learning about the latest scientific research on the environment and how to communicate that research effectively to the public.

When enrolled in the certificate capstone course (498), you will have the opportunity to submit your work to the new iSEE publication for student environmental writing, Q Magazine. If successful, you will work closely with the editors and production staff of Q on developing your work to a professional, publishable standard.

The certificate and new related courses debuted in Fall 2017. Issues are published each Fall and Spring semester (read them on the website), and two-issue volumes are printed each summer.

Read Volume 4, printed in 2022 >>>

Read Volume 3 >>>

Volume 2 >>>

Volume 1 >>> 


Alumni Successes

  • Zack Fishman, a May 2019 alumnus of the University of Illinois and a recipient of the Certificate in Environmental Writing, has taken a winding path to a writing career. As of 2023, he works as a reporter for NewsGuard Technologies, which rates the trustworthiness of news sites. Read the full feature article >>>

  • Nidhi Shastri, a May 2019 alumna, was named one of 16 New Voices by the Associate of Independents in Radio (AIR) in July 2021. Shastri has an award-winning podcast, Model Minority, and has worked as a freelance writer.

  Students Contribute to Q: Our winners of the 2022 Janelle Joseph Prize for Environmental Writing! | Details >>>

The Three-Step Pathway:

  Course Term(s) offered
1) ESE/ENGL 360 Environmental Writing (preferred) Fall and Spring
  ACGM 430 Communication in Environmental and Social Movements Fall
2) ESE/ENGL 467 Multimedia Environmental Communications Spring
  ESE/ENGL 477 Advanced Environmental Writing Fall
3) ESE/ENGL 498 Environmental Writing for Publication Spring

While all CEW students are encouraged to begin their pursuit of the certificate with ESE/ENGL 360, we now offer AGCM 430 as an alternative option for students as well.

If you are interested in formally pursuing the certificate, please click here to register for the CEW. Registration is not mandatory, but by registering you will receive advising support, information about opportunities for CEW students, news of campus events, and more.

About the Courses

The first course, 360, emphasizes the student’s “close encounter” with the natural world and the human systems that depend on it. Driven by your own interests, you might learn to write about endangered animals, or cities, or the energy grid, or biofuels — the sky is not necessarily the limit!

The second-step courses, 467 and 477, emphasize the deep interconnections between nature and human lifestyles, how everything from the food on your table to the jeans you wear flows through complex global chains, with resource costs and waste at each point. How can we make those product chains more sustainable?

The capstone course, 498, brings all you’ve learned to the task of an in-depth writing project, conducted in close partnership with world-class environmental researchers on our U of I campus. The final product, a polished piece of long-form journalism on a vital environmental research topic, will be something you can take with you to potential employers, as the crown jewel of your Certificate in Environmental Writing. And you might get published in Q Magazine!


Let’s say you’re interested in taking one of these courses, but don’t want to commit to the certificate. That’s fine, too! We want as many students as possible involved in environmental writing.


Faculty committed to teaching in the CEW include English Professor Gillen D’Arcy Wood, a prize-winning environmental historian and iSEE Associate Director; SESE Clinical Associate Professor Rob Kanter, author of the Environmental Almanac; Jamie Jones, Assistant Professor of English; John Barnard, Assistant Professor of Comparative & World Literature; and Lucinda Cole, Visiting Associate Professor of English.

For questions, please contact Professor Wood >>>