Environmental Studies Minor To Debut In Fall

By Sean Smith
Staff Writer

The College of Arts and Sciences has established a minor in environmental studies which will offer an integrated series of courses combining disciplines such as chemistry, economics, geology, biology and law, and provide students with internship opportunities.

Administrators said the program, which will debut in the fall, will help undergraduates develop an awareness of the scientific, cultural and political aspects of environmental issues. It also will help prepare students for careers in the expanding field of environmental professions, they said, and for further study at the graduate or professional school level.

The program will be directed by Eric Strauss, a research assistant professor in the Biology Department, who has been working as a special assistant to the A&S dean in developing the program.

"We have been working on a program in environmental studies for three or four years now, so it is very satisfying to reach this milestone," said A&S Dean J. Robert Barth, SJ. "The process has taken a long time because environmental studies involves a diversity of expertise and we have worked carefully to build a coherent program."

"This is the beginning of what promises to be an exciting venture for Boston College," Strauss said. "We have a relatively small, focused program which already has strong institutional resources behind it. We hope to continue developing over time and reach for more collaborative opportunities to further strengthen environmental studies at Boston College."

Fr. Barth said the program reflects a need for universities and colleges to educate students about the complex forces affecting the environment and society. A program utilizing the natural sciences, the humanities and law will provide a comprehensive view of these issues, he said.

"I have long thought environmental studies was appropriate for an institution which puts a high premium on social responsibility and concern for the stewardship of creation," Fr. Barth said. "I truly think this program is in the Jesuit tradition."

The program offers students two possible tracks, based on whether their backgrounds are in the natural sciences or the humanities. Students will first take three courses outside their discipline, then two specialization courses corresponding to their field of study, and participate in an internship or a senior seminar.

Strauss gave examples of how different undergraduates might use the minor. An economics major might take foundation courses in chemistry and biodiversity, followed by specialization courses in coastal field ecology, environmental biology or environmental economics. A biology major, on the other hand, could receive a grounding in microeco-nomic theory, then have specialization courses in environmental law and geology.

The internship phase of the minor will help students synthesize their learning in a practical fashion, Strauss continued. Students already have the opportunity to work under his direction at the Sandy Neck Field Station on Cape Cod, for example, and conduct research on ecology and management of the endangered Piping Plover. Economics majors might work on land use issues with a municipal agency, he noted, and English majors could assist environment-oriented organizations with their publication needs.

"Another advantage of the internships is that they provide the chance to build contacts and draw expertise from outside the University," Strauss added. "This will help Boston College offer environmental studies in a rich intellectual context which cuts across scholarly and professional specializations."

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