Eco-Centric – Students Nationwide Explore Human Impact On The Environment
For an increasing number of students, “going green” is more than just a trend. It’s a subject they want to devote their lives to. At colleges and universities across the country, students are flocking to environmental studies programs, which focus on human interaction with the earth.
Most of these programs combine classes on the physical environment with courses on environmental policy. Biology, geography and geology are some of the major’s core disciplines, while many programs also cover some aspect of environmental technology.
Classes vary by school but often allow students to study environmental law and politics, investigate climate change, study the ways in which the environment changes over time, and make educated predictions about what could happen in the future.
Environmental studies majors should expect hands-on courses that provide practical field experience. At Dickinson College, for example, the Luce Semester gives students the opportunity to apply lessons from the classroom in a real-world context as they investigate issues affecting two watershed regions: the Chesapeake Bay and the lower Mississippi River Basin.Through field research and interaction with scientists and members of the community, participants get a firsthand look at topics such as aquatic science, environmental justice, coastal geomorphology and more.
But environmental studies extends beyond science and approaches the man-and-nature equation from a philosophical standpoint, asking questions about humans’basicrole onEarth.Recent environmental studies courses include Psychology of Climate Change at the University of Oregon, Blood and Oil: Natural Resources,Poverty andViolence at the University of California Santa Cruz, and Race, Class and Pollution Politics at the University of Colorado at Boulder.
Some schools offer more specialized minors, like the energy and water sustainability minor at Rice University.
Environmental studies majors can explore a variety of career paths, including environmental engineering, land-use management, ecology, climatology, teaching, research, environmental consulting, government work, lobbying, law or journalism, to name a few.
While environmental studies students are tackling eco-issues in the classroom (and in the field), more and more colleges and universities are creating campus-wide initiatives to encourage all students, faculty and staff to think green. Many schools, like Dickinson, Indiana University, the University of Michigan,Arizona State, Iowa State and the University of San Francisco, have established offices of sustainability or green initiative programs. These programs strive to engage everyone on campus in sustainability efforts and reduce the school’s negative impact on the environment.
The new Planet Blue initiative at the University of Michigan, for instance, includes Planet Blue teams that work with students, faculty and staff to identify opportunities for energy conservation and recycling in buildings on campus. Students are invited to make suggestions for energy savings in their dorms or classrooms.According to the website,”[a] one percent reduction in utility usage translates to over $1,000,000 in annual savings to the university.”
If you’re interested in helping to change the physical world for the better, or if you just want to participate in one or two environmental efforts, chances are that any of the schools you apply to will offer some way for you to get involved-and make your life a little greener.