A call for upgrades to environmental studies program

Senior cites survey results, but resources may be lacking for proposed course

| Contributing Reporter

Dissatisfied with the variety of courses offered in the environmental studies program, a senior majoring in the subject turned in a five-page paper to the dean of Arts & Sciences explaining what Washington University could do to improve the the program.

The author, Kady McFadden, expressed three concerns in the report. First and foremost, she hopes to see an interdisciplinary class offered on climate change as soon as possible.

“Although you can get knowledge on the issue from a bunch of different classes, we really need a comprehensive class that gives a broad perspective of the issue, including science, economics, policy, ethics and so on,” McFadden said.

Second, McFadden believes that environmental studies majors need more out-of-class experience. She thinks that the University should provide students with resources such as additional internship programs and research opportunities. Third, she hopes the program will evolve into a department.

Many of McFadden’s fellow students echo her concerns.

“Climate change is a very prevalent subject of our day,” said Lynne Dzubow, a sophomore majoring in environmental studies (ENST). “We really need to put a priority on getting a climate change course here at Wash. U. Also, many environmental-related jobs require students to know about climate change in an academic setting.”

To support McFadden’s argument and gauge interest in the new class, she, along with fellow students, organized a survey given to students across the University on behalf of the Academic Subcommittee of the Emissions Awareness Committee. The subcommittee works to expand the curriculum in the environmental studies program.

The results show that, among the 412 students surveyed, 60 percent are interested in the field of environmental studies; 60 percent are not satisfied with the variety of classes offered by the current ENST program; one-third said they are very likely to take the class on climate change if offered; and more than half of the students surveyed are willing to see the environmental studies program expanded into a department. Many suggest that this would help increase full-time, devoted faculty members, eliminate course redundancy and increase environmental awareness on campus.

Many faculty members in the environmental studies program also support the idea of having an interdisciplinary course on climate change. But they pointed out that a lack of resources might prevent this from happening immediately.

“We currently have few faculty in the ENST program, and all of the faculty we do have are already busy teaching courses that are required for the major,” said Tiffany Knight, the assistant director of the environmental studies program. “We would certainly like to create [a class], but the resources are not available for that at present.”

McFadden agrees that there are not enough resources available for the increasing interest in the department.

“The number of students majoring in environmental studies has doubled in the last two years,” McFadden said. “However, the number of classes and faculty only increased slightly. I think we need to add a lot more resources, hire more faculty [and] help students out in that field.”

Still, the University will offer a freshman seminar next semester on geo-engineering in the earth and planetary sciences department about proposals to deliberately manipulate the earth’s climate, taught jointly by professors Jennifer Smith and David Fike.

  • P

    great work! hope this opens up a conversation with the administration!