Environmental Health and Justice

Aug. 27 to Dec. 18, 2015

Professor Laura Goldin with Drs. James Stewart, Joseph Allen, Matt Fragala and Ted Myatt
Fall Semester, 16 Credits | August 27-December 18, 2015

Engage directly with affected communities as you delve deeply into the law, policy, social impacts and science of pressing environmental justice and health challenges. Working hand-in-hand with members of the most disadvantaged communities — including those in inner-city Boston and Waltham and the rural coal-mining mountains of Appalachia — students will tackle issues like toxic exposure and access to safe housing, healthy food and open space, and ultimately produce a publishable environmental-health study. In confronting these critical challenges, students will develop the skills and understanding to hit the ground running in addressing real-world, complex and multi-disciplinary environmental and social justice issues.

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Ideal for

The Environmental Health and Justice Community Field Semester is ideal for any student eager to engage directly with affected communities and policymakers in addressing issues of environmental health, social justice, and environmental rights as part of their academic studies. Well-suited to students across the disciplines (no pre-requisites), including ENVS, HSSP, SJSP, ANTH, IGS, LGLS, WGS and others.  


AMST 102aj Environment, Social Justice, and Empowerment (6 credits)
This community-engaged course involves students first-hand in the legal, policy, science, history and social impacts of current environmental health issues challenging individuals, families and communities today, with a particular focus on low-income, immigrant communities and the profound and unique roles played by women. Students will engage directly in the topics through field trips, visiting speakers and discussions with stakeholders themselves, taking on vital issues with some of the most disadvantaged communities from inner-city Boston and Waltham to the rural coal mining mountains of Appalachia. Students will address issues such as toxic exposure, access to safe housing, healthy food and clean water.

BISC 6bj Environmental Health (6 credits)
Does not meet the requirements for Biology major.
An introduction to the science and tools of environmental health, giving students skills to explore current issues experienced by local communities. Students will become familiar with the environmental health paradigm, the conceptual model of the field, including underlying principles of hazard identification, exposure assessment, toxicology, risk assessment, and characterization and interpretation of epidemiological studies.

ENVS 102aj Field Research and Study Methods: Environmental Health (4 credits)
Comprises the skills and methods component of the Environmental Health and Justice JBS. Students will be trained in environmental health study design, sampling methodology, field research and equipment techniques, data interpretation, statistical analysis, risk communication and presentation. The course will equip students to design and carry out a semester-long environmental health research study integral to the themes of Environmental Health and Justice Community Field Semester.

*Courses are equivalent to four courses

Hands-on learning

Students in previous Environmental Health and Justice Community Field Semesters (formerly JBS programs) have:

  • Traveled to the mountain communities of rural Kentucky and worked with communities deeply affected by mountaintop removal for coal, witnessing the devastating ecological and human health impacts.

  • Conducted research and presented research findings on nail salon air quality at the 2012 and 2014 International Conference on Environmental Science and Technology. The 2011 study was published in the Journal of Immigrant and Minority Health in 2013.

  • Assisted with the Alternative for Community and Environment’s initiative to reduce asthma triggers such as diesel pollution in low-income neighborhoods.

  • Partnered with Healthy Waltham and Waltham Fields Community Farm to improve understanding and access to healthy local food by working with school children to develop and improve community gardens.

  • Addressed toxic exposures in low income housing in Waltham through the Waltham Alliance to Create Housing’s (WATCH) “Housing Advocacy Clinic”, organized and staffed by Brandeis students in collaboration with the Boston College Legal Assistance Bureau.

  • Collaborated with the EPA Lead Enforcement Initiative and the Lead Action Collaborative program to reduce childhood lead paint exposure in high-risk housing.

To learn more about the experiential learning opportunities in the Environmental Health and Justice Community Field Semester check out our website for the fall 2013 and fall 2011 programs.

Students’ experiences

Students in previous Environmental Health and Justice Community Field Semesters (formerly JBS programs) have said:
“[Environmental Health & Justice JBS] has expanded my worldview drastically, and given me the opportunity to explore.”
Fall 2011 student
“We didn’t just learn – we tackled problems and came up with solutions.”
Fall 2013 student
"Having class outdoors and taking field trips to beautiful places - who said learning can't be fun? The WATCH clinic was an essential learning point - it revealed the emotional weight of social justice issues and required us to be on top of our game and knowledge of housing rights. The Kentucky trip was phenomenal - a complete cultural experience, the most beautiful sights and hikes, met really wise and interesting people, got to see the issue from different perspectives. The nail salon study gave us an important introduction to what environmental health work looks like on the ground, with inter-agency meetings at Boston Public Health and learning how to use the instruments and design the study. I have a whole new understanding of what the work looks like and means to society as a whole. Also, writing a paper on water contamination and water rights in India was a treat for me. I was able to research an issue I am deeply passionate about, and I learned an incredible amount in the process."
Fall 2011 student
"[The faculty] made the program but left it for us to shape... It really felt like OUR semester."
Fall 2013 student

"Small class sizes are what attracted me to Brandeis to begin with. JBS is a dream come true with a specialized small task force of students. Overall, not only did we learn an incredible amount from each other, but we all grew to be really great friends. The best thing about small class sizes is that you really feel like you matter in a class."
Fall 2011 student

To read more about the student experience in the Environmental Health and Justice Community Field Semester check out our student voices page on the fall 2013 program website.