Ag Sciences' CED major adds 'social and environmental responsibility' option

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Students majoring in community, environment, and development in Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences can add a new option to reflect a growing interest in corporate responsibility. The social and environmental responsibility option takes effect in the fall 2020 semester.

The community, environment, and development major, often referred to as CED, is an interdisciplinary, social science-based major designed to train students to develop and implement strategies to overcome community-based challenges faced abroad and at home, explained CED program coordinator Tim Kelsey, professor of agricultural economics.

The new option will provide students with the skills, analytical frameworks and knowledge to work on business-related social and environmental responsibility issues from the perspective of stakeholders, such as investors, consumers, governments, communities and businesses.

Students will explore responsible market practices designed to advance social good and social justice, as well as the varied roles stakeholders have in the successful adoption and implementation of these practices. The option also encourages students to investigate how these stakeholders view a business’s responsibility to improve social and environmental standards in its supply chains.

Kelsey said the new option is designed to fill a niche. “There are only three other universities with similar CED programs in the United States,” he said. “We’ve had students who have gone through our program who then move on to corporate social responsibility careers, but before now, the major hasn’t been focused specifically on this area. We’re excited about this new option because it will allow our students to explore this area much more comprehensively.”

Some of the required coursework includes “CED 440: Labor in the Global Economy,” which explores topics such as the global division of labor, experiences of work and how workers claim rights. The course considers both labor’s role in corporate social responsibility initiatives and how worker-led movements have encouraged companies to adopt corporate responsibility programs, as well as compares how labor issues have been addressed in these initiatives. 

The new option also includes “CED 460W: Policy and Perspectives on Social and Environmental Sustainability,” which examines the active and passive roles that government, citizens, consumers, workers, nonprofits and other nonbusiness organizations play in social and environmental responsibility issues. These roles range from the impact of their own consumption choices to how they interrelate with and influence business decision-making.

Graduates of the option can pursue positions in the business and nonprofit sectors. This includes positions within businesses with a corporate social responsibility function or organizations founded with a focus on solving social and environmental problems.

For more information about CED and the new option, contact Kelsey at


Last Updated May 14, 2020