The Environmental Humanities Initiative was launched in 2007, then became the Nature and Human Communities Initiative in 2009, and finally Place Studies in 2013. The purpose of the Environmental Humanities Initiative was to bring together people from different disciplines and divisions to focus on relationships across cultural studies, community studies, and nature in the Susquehanna River watershed. In an effort to include the social sciences more directly, the name of the program changed to the Nature and Human Communities Initiative. The most recent name recognized that "place" represented a common element in the program's work.

Program Focus

Place is not a static bounded territory, but rather refers to the fluid and changing interactions between the human and non-human that together create place-based meaning and identity.
Working in collaboration with faculty, students, and staff from across the humanities, social sciences, and management, the program develops teaching, research, and outreach projects that examine how we imagine, sustain, understand, and engage with place. Such opportunities allow faculty and students to actively engage with the social, political, historical, and cultural dimensions of nature-society relationships and sustainability.

Teaching and Learning

The Place Studies program supports the development of innovative teaching and learning experiences in the classroom on sustainability dilemmas, as well as community-based research projects that address community-identified areas of need and interest. Such support provides students with valuable opportunities to actively apply course concepts to understanding real-world sustainability and environmental dilemmas.

Scholarship and Research

The Place Studies program supports faculty and student research on sustainability, environmental history, and human-environment interaction topics with the goal of expanding research and peer-reviewed scholarship. The program provides undergraduate students active, hands-on learning opportunities to engage in research as both individuals and as members of research teams during the academic year and summers. Students may pursue their own research interests with the support of the program, or join existing or emerging research teams.


A number of research and teaching initiatives have been funded by grants from Chesapeake Conservancy, the Conservation Fund, the Degenstein Foundation, Ekedahl Endowed Fund, and the John Ben Snow Trust.