Thursday, January 30, 2014

Environmental Studies Major at BC

Dear BC Environmental Studies community,

I am very happy to announce that the BC College of Arts and Sciences is starting an interdisciplinary major in Environmental Studies! This is the result of hard work by a group of faculty members associated with the Environmental Studies Program who developed the proposal for the new major (see list below). The group began working during the winter-spring semester 2013, and submitted the proposal to the A&S Educational Policy Committee at the end of last academic year. The EPC unanimously approved the proposal in November. It received official approval from the A&S dean and university provost this month. This semester the ESP will work to launch the major, including developing materials about the major for students and advisors, and running an application process for students in the class of 2017 (see more information about these plans below).

Training in environmental studies serves as a focal point for perspectives on sustainability from the humanities, arts, social sciences, and natural sciences. The motivation to start an ES major at BC is four-fold. First, we have the expertise across the university to build a strong program. Second, students are increasingly interested in a social-science based, interdisciplinary environmental studies major. Polling of BC Environmental Studies minors backs up this assertion, and U.S. News and World Report recently cited environmental studies as one of nine “new college majors with a future” and a defining issue of the century. Third, comparable universities offer this program. Fourth, it will provide a venue to grow interdisciplinary collaborations amongst faculty and students across the university.

The goals of the major are to provide students with:
·        a)  the knowledge and perspective to cultivate rewarding lives as responsible citizens of the planet;
·        b)  a deep understanding of the scientific, political, and cultural aspects of the world's environmental challenges;
·        c)  the tools and creativity necessary to envision and implement paths to sustainable solutions; and
·        d)  a solid background for environmentally related graduate programs and/or careers in business, education, law, policy, planning, government, or research.

The creation of this major gives students interested in the environment three degree options: a Bachelor of Arts in Environmental Studies, a Bachelor of Science in Environmental Geoscience (in the Earth and Environmental Sciences Department), and a minor in Environmental Studies. The ES major will consist of a minimum of 43 credits, equivalent to at least 14 full-semester courses, including four of the Environmental Systems introductory science courses (GE 201-208 plus labs), two foundation courses in environmental studies, and a year-long senior seminar. All ES majors will need to complete a six-course concentration in a theme (options are Food and Water Sustainability or Climate Change and Societal Adaptation) or discipline (options are History, Political Science or Sociology). Like other interdisciplinary majors at BC, the ESP will run an admissions process at the end of the second semester. This May, we will accept applications from first-year students for the first cohort of approximately 15 ES majors, who will begin with an introductory seminar course in the fall 2014 semester. The ES major is available to students in the class of 2017 and subsequent years. While that fact might be disappointing for some current ES minors in the classes of 2014-16, I think all will agree that the new major is a great development for BC, the current first-year students, and future students.

If you are interested in the ES major, please check the ES Program website ( in late February for details about the requirements and application process. You can also talk with ES graduate assistant Kevin Brown ( and Devlin 213), ES Visiting Assistant Professor Tara Pisani Gareau (, or me (

Noah P. Snyder
Director, Environmental Studies Program
Associate Professor, Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences

Environmental Studies Major Working Group
David Deese (Political Science)
Brian Gareau (Sociology; International Studies)
Colleen Hitchcock (Biology)
Martha Carlson Mazur (ESP; E&ES; now at Bellarmine University)
Kevin O’Neill (History)
Zyg Plater (Law School)
Noah Snyder (ESP; E&ES)
Min Song (English)

Holly VandeWall (Philosophy)

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