Environmental science and studies combine majors

Environmental science and environmental studies will no longer be two separate majors starting in the Fall of 2018.

The department of environmental science and environmental studies will be joining together to create one major called environment science and sustainability, according to Professor of Environmental Science Richard Bowden.

“The new major is really just an alteration of what we have now so it’s not entirely new,” Bowden said. “Presently, there are science students who take a lot of social sciences and social science interested students who are studies majors and take a lot of natural science classes so the reality of the field is that it becomes much more interdisciplinary.”

Bowden describes environmental science and studies as a triangle with three parts. There are the natural sciences, social sciences and humanities. All three areas deal with environmental issues and are needed to do environmental problem solving. Since students work anywhere within the triangle of environmental science and studies, combining the two majors was not a difficult decision.

“There’s so much overlap between the science major and the studies major that it doesn’t make sense to have two separate majors anymore,” Bowden said.

Combining the two majors has been in the works for the past six years, according to Professor and Chair of Environmental Science Eric Pallant.

“The reason we have been working on it began with a dissatisfaction between these majors and how the best experiences for students came from integrating everything from philosophy and religion all the way over to biology and chemistry and everything in between economics and government and so forth,” Pallant said.

Another reason the departments decided to combine into one major was to reflect the reality of its current situation, according to Bowden.

Many science students want to take more courses in environmental policy and environmental literature and those working on environmental law and policy want to learn more about the science aspect. The current constraint within the two departments separated students from what they wanted to learn and would not enable them to have a breadth of experiences.

“If students want to focus on only one particular area they still have that ability within the flexibility of the new majors,” Bowden said. “Students will gravitate towards their own major sphere of influence and we’re giving them that flexibility.”

In order to create a new major, professors must create and design a proposal that is then sent to the curriculum committee which is made up of professors across different departments. The proposal goes back and forth between the creators and the committee before it is finalized and brought to the faculty at a faculty meeting. This meeting is called the first reading where faculty are introduced to the proposal and are able to make any comments good or bad. If there are comments that require adjustments then those who are proposing make changes with the curriculum committee before if reappears at the next faculty meeting for its second reading.

There’s so much overlap between the science major and the studies major that it doesn’t make sense to have two separate majors anymore.

— Richard Bowden, Professor of Environmental Science

“If the faculty approves the proposal in a full vote it becomes the law of the land,” Pallant said.

One part of the proposal that did not make it into the final cut was the use of the United Nations 17 sustainable development goals which focused on ending world hunger, poverty and finding solutions to end climate change, according to Pallant. The department agreed however, that their students should still learn how to solve these problems.

“These are tall tasks and it’s not going to happen in 12 years,” Pallant said. “But this is what we are training our students to figure out how to do, and you can see it involves the communication and justice studies major and the education minor, and we’re happy to see everyone participate to help solve the world’s problems.”

The combination of the environmental studies and science major will go into effect following the matriculation of the fall 2018 class. Students who matriculated before the fall of 2018 will not be able to declare environmental science and sustainability as their major, according to Professor of Psychology and Chair of the Curriculum Committee Josh Searle-White. Students who matriculated earlier however, will still be able to take any of the classes offered by the new major.

“We periodically revise all of our majors, it runs for bunch of years and then tides change and the world changes and maybe we need to re-do things,” Searle-White said. “Revising majors is nothing new.”