Jun 12, 2024  
2023-2024 Catalog 
2023-2024 Catalog [ARCHIVED CATALOG]

Salish Sea Studies Minor

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Salish Sea Studies, University Interdisciplinary Programs

22-24 credits


Western Washington University resides at a nexus of complex geologies, ecologies, histories, and cultures: the Salish Sea. This Minor gives students an opportunity to develop a sense of place and a sense of responsibility for learning and caring for where they live. The place-based, experiential, and multidisciplinary Salish Sea Studies curriculum introduces students to the complex human-environment systems of our shared region. Composed of a core set of interdisciplinary courses and a set of electives spanning all colleges on campus, this Minor is designed to demonstrate that many ways of knowing are relevant and important for understanding the Salish Sea.

The Salish Sea bioregion is an estuarine inland sea surrounded by snow-capped mountain ranges and rich in biodiversity. Freshwater lakes and glaciers filter through temperate rainforest into rivers that meet the saltwater and tides from the Pacific Ocean, filling the Puget Sound, Georgia Basin, and Strait of Juan de Fuca. The name “Salish Sea” reflects the long history of Straits and Coast Salish peoples, who have deep and abiding relationships with the lands and waters of this region since time immemorial. Over the past two centuries, the Canada-US border and each nation’s governance structures have cut across this waterscape and intersected with Indigenous nations’ laws and governance systems in myriad ways. Millions of people from around the world have moved to the region’s cities and rural areas. This industrial-scale population growth, combined with extractive resource economies and global climate change, create myriad challenges for the health of this region and all who live here.

This Minor invites students to critically examine these complex issues, and to build meaningful connections across borders, disciplines, and systems to help bring to life an environmentally healthy and just future for the Salish Sea. 

Why Consider a Salish Sea Studies Minor?

Salish Sea Studies offers a multidisciplinary, experiential, and place-based complement to other majors and minors, including environmental science and policy; marine sciences; international business; anthropology; history; political science; communications; and education. The program is designed to draw on the breadth and depth of expertise across Western, with electives from all colleges on campus. Our curriculum emphasizes appreciation of the contributions of many ways of knowing across the humanities, social sciences, and natural sciences. Students are given opportunities for field-based experiential learning and personal reflection as they develop a critical sense of place in the Salish Sea.

 Contact Information

Associate Director, Salish Sea Institute
Dr. Cindy Elliser

 Sample Careers

Developing a deep knowledge of the Salish Sea from environmental, cultural, and historical perspectives will prepare students to work collaboratively across multiple jurisdictions, sectors, and perspectives in a range of professions, including in public service and government, industry, and nonprofit organizations. The program also provides a strong foundation for pursuing graduate work regionally and beyond by developing a keen understanding of the complexities of their undergraduate bioregion.

 Major/Career Resources


How to Declare (Admission and Declaration Process):

To declare a Minor in Salish Sea Studies, fill out Section 1 of the Minor Declaration and Change Form and submit to ellisec@wwu.edu.

Grade Requirements

A grade of C- or better is required for a student’s major or minor courses, and supporting courses for majors and minors.


Salish Sea Studies Core (7-9 credits)

Electives (15 credits)

Electives are divided into four learning domains to encourage students to engage in multidisciplinary learning that spans the university. Students must complete at least one course from each learning domain; must take a total of at least 15 credits to reach the credit minimum of 22 for the minor.

Learning Domain 4: Ecological Health and Restoration

Describe and define the Salish Sea region’s biodiverse ecosystems, watershed geographies, and human-environment systems.

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