The major was offered for the first time last fall, and enrolled about 30 students, Snyder said.
Junior Rachel Sears, 21, said she switched to the new major when it was offered because she has always had an interest in the environment.
"I understand the value of having preserved lands," said Sears, who is from Calhoun County, W.Va., a rural, wooded area.
The students in the program take their enthusiasm out of the classroom. They've formed a group called the Shepherd Environmental Organization.
Their discussions can start in the classroom, spill out into the hallway, and continue in dorms and lounges.
"I've never seen students take such passion towards an issue," Sears said.
Snyder, 49, said the program took years to develop and combines classes in park administration, oceanography, archaeology and forestry.
The old science rooms, made available when the new Robert C. Byrd Science and Technology Center opened in September, will be renovated to serve as environmental studies labs.
State grants will help pay for analytical equipment and microscopes.
The college also will be able to get "world-class" instructors from the nearby National Conservation Training Center to teach classes, Snyder said.
With a bachelor's degree in environmental studies, students could work in park administration or for a manufacturing plant to help come up with ways to protect the environment, Snyder said.
But the students see the classwork as more than a way to get a job after graduation, Snyder said.
"I didn't expect the amount of enthusiasm and involvement. They all enjoy the world around them and want to improve - at least maintain - the environment around them," Snyder said.