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A Minor with Major Impact

It didn’t take long for Professor of English Doug Richards to achieve his goal of starting an environmental studies program at Keuka.

During his spring 2007 sabbatical, Richards spent time in the Middlebury (Vt.) College library and in “the woods” with that goal in mind. Middlebury College is known for having one of the best environmental studies programs in the country.

Just one year later, Richards’ proposal for a minor in environmental studies was approved by the Board of Trustees. The minor will be available to students entering the College this fall.

Richards penned the proposal for the environmental studies minor with help from five other members of the faculty. In addition to Richards, the Environmental Studies Work Group was comprised of Associate Professor of Biology Katherine Klingensmith, Associate Professor of Philosophy and Religion Michael McKenzie, Associate Professor of Biology and Environmental Science Timothy Sellers, Associate Professor of Criminology/Criminal Justice and Sociology Regi Teasley, and Visiting Professor of Finance and Law Lisa Hochadel.

According to Richards, the minor is designed “to provide an interdisciplinary foundation in environmental studies for students in a variety of majors who wish to develop an understanding of environmental issues, or whose professional credentials might be augmented by familiarity with multidisciplinary perspectives on the environment.

“Environmental studies has been named in a number of recent surveys as a particularly promising program of study for college students,” said Richards. “Employers in the private and public sector will increasingly need employees with a background and understanding of environmental issues. In particular, this minor program would be an excellent complement to existing Keuka majors in organizational communications, management, marketing, education, social work, or any of the liberal arts and sciences majors.”

The minor will consist of 20 credits plus one required Field Period in environmental studies. Environmental Science (ENV 105) is required of all environmental studies minors.

According to Richards, the environmental science course is “designed to introduce students to the scientific study of ecology and environments, and to provide an awareness of the interplay of disciplinary perspectives necessary to grapple with environmental problems and issues.”

Students minoring in environmental studies will have a choice when it comes to a second science course: Organisms and the Environment (BIO 134), General Chemistry I (CHM 111), or Ecology and Evolution (ENV 337).

“An additional science course is intended to strengthen students’ understanding of the scientific concepts, principles, and practices that comprise the study of ecosystems and the physical environment,” said Richards.

From the following list, environmental studies minors must choose three courses, each with a different disciplinary prefix, with at least one of them being at a 300-level or above: Microeconomics (ECO 211), Environmental Literature (ENG 215), Environmental Ethics (PHL 215), Environmental Sociology (SOC 245), Geography (GEO 310), and Ecology and Evolution (ENV 337).

“Environmental issues are complex and multi-faceted, requiring an awareness of, and acquaintance with, a variety of disciplinary perspectives and bodies of knowledge,” said Richards. “By taking three courses, each in a different discipline, students will increase their ability to see the world from multiple disciplinary perspectives.”

In Integrative Studies: Interdisciplinary Study of the Environment (INS 301), students will be expected to demonstrate an ability to integrate and apply multiple disciplinary perspectives to a particular environmental case, problem, issue, or situation in a classroom setting.

“In addition to developing an appreciation for the multiple perspectives and bodies of knowledge one must bring to bear on the study of the environment, students need to develop the ability to integrate these perspectives and apply them,” said Richards.

The Field Period in environmental studies will focus on integrating and applying the various disciplinary perspectives in a real-world setting.

Six out of the eight course offerings also meet general education requirements.

Said Richards: “As a result, relatively few, if any, students should have any difficulty fitting this minor program into their course of study.”

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