The Center for Environmental Studies results from many voices and many efforts over the years. In 2002, Walter Isle, Professor of English, and Paul Harcombe, Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, founded the Center for the Study of the Environment and Society (CSES) and with it the Environmental Studies program (ENST), a curricular effort to sponsor courses about environment and ecology across disciplines. In 2011, a faculty-led initiative produced the Cultures of Energy Working Group, which was funded by Rice’s Humanities Research Center and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to explore energy from a range of disciplines across the arts, humanities, architecture and social sciences.

Out of the Cultures of Energy working group emerged, in 2013, the Center for Energy and Environmental Research in the Human Sciences (CENHS) under the leadership of Dominic Boyer, who incorporated both the CSES and ENST and helped grow the ENST program into a thriving multidisciplinary minor while offering invigorating programs, from arts exhibitions to the annual Cultures of Energy symposium.

In 2019, the schools of Humanities and Architecture became home to the renamed Center for Environmental Studies, which continues the work of the CSES and CENHS by broadening our rubric to recognize the growing diversity of topics and approaches to energy and ecology in our research and by sustaining and deepening our commitments to educating, through the Environmental Studies program, future generations who face the urgent, accumulating impacts of our ecological moment.