Course Syllabus

Course Information

Title: Environmental Writing
Number: ENG 579-800
Time & Location: online (optional live meetings TH at 6:30, passcode: 996863)
Instructor: Dr. Jeremy Tirrell
Office: MO 161
Virtual Office Hours: T & TH 1:00–3:00 and by appointment

Course Overview

Students in this course will read and write about material and cultural issues related to natural and built environments.

This is a fully online course delivered through Canvas. Students will use this site to access all course materials and submit all assignments. Optional live meetings will take place on Thursdays at 6:30 through Zoom; students are encouraged to participate in class video discussions, but recordings will be provided on this site for those who cannot. Because of this course's online format, students must have access to an online computing device and a reliable internet connection to complete it successfully.

Although this is an online course, it is not self paced. The course is broken into weekly units, and the class will maintain a shared sense of progress while exploring the subject matter. Compared to standard face-to-face sections, this course requires students to be more autonomous and more comfortable with online interaction. The advantage of this format is that students have more agency and scheduling flexibility, but students should be aware that they will be thoroughly responsible for their own success.

This course affirms the Seahawk Respect Compact, which will guide class interactions. All class members are expected to treat each other with appropriate courtesy and decorum, and all coursework should be completed in a thorough, timely fashion. All students must read and abide by the policies articulated in this syllabus.


Catalogue Description:

ENG 579 - Environmental Writing
Credits: 3
Examines critical issues in environmental writing and provides practice in researching and writing about environmental issues. The course also covers developments in the field and the evolving genres related to environmental writing spurred by electronic communications.


Course Learning Outcomes:

To complete this course successfully, students should demonstrate the ability to:

  • identify, define, and analyze rhetorical strategies and genres used in environmental writing, assessing their effects and planning for application
  • compose environmental texts in multiple genres, identifying and practicing relevant writing techniques and research methods based on rhetorical needs
  • articulate underlying environmental writing epistemologies, theories, themes, tropes and other patterns from creative, technical, and scholarly contexts
  • engage in scholarly conversations to examine the relationship of creative, technical, and scholarly uses of environmental writing.


Required Materials:

  • American Earth: Environmental Writing Since Thoreau, edited by Bill Mckibben. This book may be obtained from:

Course Policies

Technology Expectations:

  • access to the course platforms (Canvas and Zoom)
  • a UNCW email account checked regularly for course-related business
  • a means to backup coursework (such as a flash drive or cloud account) 

This is a fully online class, and computer problems are not valid excuses for incomplete coursework. Students should practice the core principle of digital data hygiene: redundant backup. Digital technology will fail; students should prepare for that eventuality. If Canvas experiences outages or other issues, the instructor will make the necessary curricular exceptions.


Late Work:

If an emergency arises that will prevent a student from submitting coursework on time the student should contact the instructor.  


Statement on COVID-19:

Because of the unique challenges posed by COVID-19, this course seeks to be flexible while retaining scholarly integrity. Students who are impacted by COVID-19 either directly through infection or indirectly through care giving responsibilities or changes in life circumstances are encouraged to contact the instructor. In order to monitor the impact of COVID-19 on UNCW, all university members must report illness. Students who experience COVID-19 symptoms should immediately contact the Abrons Student Health Center at (910) 962-3280.


Statement on Academic Integrity:

All UNCW community members are expected to adhere to the guidelines set forth in the UNCW Student Academic Honor Code. Students are expected to produce original work in this course. Collaboration and incorporation of external material and ideas into original work is of course necessary and acceptable, but all students are ethically obliged to document external sources through appropriate citation practices. Students who are uncertain if some element of their work constitutes plagiarism or another honor code violation should speak with the instructor. The point of any class is to educate, not to punish; nevertheless, the consequences of honor code violations are appropriately dire. Please consult the UNCW Code of Student Life for more information.


Statement on Services for Students with Disabilities:

The university will make every effort to accommodate students with disabilities. Students requiring accommodations should contact the Disability Resource Center, as the instructor can take no action without its guidance. Students should do this as soon as possible, as accommodations cannot be made retroactively.


Statement Regarding Violence and Harassment:

UNCW practices a zero tolerance policy for any kind of violent or harassing behavior. Students experiencing an emergency of this type should contact the police at 911 or UNCW CARE at 962-2273. Resources for individuals concerned with a violent or harassing situation can be located at the UNCW Crisis Resources page. Students should be aware that all university employees, including instructors, are legally obligated to communicate any report of alleged sexual misconduct, on or off-campus, to the Dean of Students. Three university entities are confidential resources exempt from this obligation: CARE, the Counseling Center, and the Abrons Student Health Center.


Statement on Religious Observance:

In accordance with NC SL 2010-211, students are entitled to two excused absences for religious observances per academic year. Students must inform the instructor in writing the first week of class if they will miss any classes due to religious observance. Additionally, students should inform the Registrar the first week of class who will then coordinate with the corresponding course instructors. Any absence for religious purposes will be considered unexcused unless a student submits the request in writing the first week to the instructor or Registrar.

Course Grading

Grade Disbursement:

Each student will have private, secure access to his or her grades online through this Canvas site.


Grade Components:

Reading Responses = 22 points
Narrative Piece = 20 points
Technical Report = 50 points
Academic Paper = 100 points
Public Text = 20 points

Total = 212 points


Final Course Grades:

This courses uses the plus/minus grading system on final grade reports. The breakdown is as follows:

  • 92%–100% = A
  • 90%–91% = A-
  • 88%–89% = B+
  • 82%–87% = B
  • 80%–81% = B-
  • 78%–79% = C+
  • 72%–77% = C
  • 70%–71% = C-
  • 68%–69% = D+
  • 62%–67% = D
  • 60%–61% = D-
  • 0%–59% = F