University To Offer Degree in Environmental Studies

At the beginning of the 2014 academic year, the Boston College Environmental Studies Program (ESP) will offer a new major in environmental studies (ES)-a major that consists of an interdisciplinary curriculum focused on environmental sustainability.

Although the program has previously only offered a minor, the newly created bachelor of arts degree aims to provide students with a more thorough understanding of environmental challenges from scientific, political, and cultural points of view through courses taught by a wide range faculty throughout the University.

The major was approved upon academic review by the Office of the Provost and both the College and Graduate Schools of Arts and Sciences in January, and is now one of five interdisciplinary degrees offered at BC.

“Our undergraduates have benefited from interdisciplinary majors like International Studies and Islamic Civilization and Societies over the last decade, and these programs have helped develop faculty collaborations in important areas,” said Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences David Quigley in statement to the Office of News and Public Affairs. “I’m pleased to welcome Environmental Studies as our newest interdisciplinary major in Arts and Sciences, and I look forward to strengthening teaching and research on the environment.”

Current freshmen are eligible to apply for the major in May at the end of the 2014 spring semester for approximately 15 available spots. Students can only apply for the major after one year of study at BC. The ESP Steering Committee, which is comprised of faculty from several departments and an associate dean within A&S, determines admission for each applicant class.

According to the ESP webpage, further information on the application process and the necessary forms for selection will be listed on its website by the end of March.

The ES major will consist of 43 credits, or the equivalent of 14 full-semester courses, and is available only to students in the class of 2017 and beyond. The 43 credits will include a one-credit introductory ES seminar; eight credits-including lab requirements-from two of seven possible Environmental Systems courses; six credits from two of seven possible ES foundation courses; a six-credit theme in a specific ES theme or academic discipline; a minimum six credits in ES electives; and a four-credit senior research seminar.

Themes available to ES majors range from courses in food and water sustainability to climate change and social adaptation, and ES disciplines can be studied from a historical, sociological, or political science-based context.

Prospective ES majors interested in studying abroad are encouraged by the program to do so, and are allowed up to four credits per semester abroad to count toward an ES major or minor. The program also recommends that freshmen applicants take both the Environmental Systems class The Human Footprint and one or more of the foundation courses-several of which fulfill University Core requirements-during their first year.

Courses within the major incorporate offerings from the economics, history, philosophy, political science, sociology, and theology departments, among others.

Noah Snyder, ESP director and associate professor in the department of earth and environmental sciences, said that the expansion of ES courses to form a major coincides with student interest in studying the environment.

“First, we have the expertise across the University to build a strong program,” Snyder said in a statement to the Office of News and Public Affairs. “Second, students have told us they are very interested in a social science-based, interdisciplinary environmental studies major.”

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Connor Farley was a copy editor and news editor for The Heights. You can probably find him at a Phish show.