Faculty to vote on new primary major in environmental studies

Lecturer Ninian Stein, Assistant Director Sara Gomez, Academic Advisor Cathy Stanton and Director Colin Orians of the new Environmental Studies major to open this Fall pose outside the Granoff Family Hillel Center on March 9, 2018. Sofie Hecht / The Tufts Daily

A new primary major for Environmental Studies (ENVS) may be available to students beginning in the fall 2018 semester, pending a vote by the Faculty of Arts and Sciences in May, Dr. Colin Orians, Director of the Environmental Studies program and professor of biology, said. According to Orians, this follows approval for the new major by the Committee on Curricula. Orians said current first-year and sophomore students can choose this major.

Environmental Studies is currently offered as a co-major and a minor for engineers, Sara Gomez, Assistant Director of Environmental Studies, said. This means that students who choose to major in Environmental Studies must choose a secondary major to accompany it, she said.

However, the new Applied Environmental Studies major can be selected as a stand-alone major, Gomez explained. The original co-major will continue to be offered as well, she said.

Gomez explained that there has been increased interest in the Environmental Studies co-major in the past few years.

“Currently, we have one hundred students that are declared majors and about twenty five minors … In the last three years we’ve seen an increasing trend, which is great to see,” she said.

Gomez also said that there has been an increased demand for a more robust major within the ENVS program, and that the conversation surrounding a stand-alone major has been taking place for decades. According to Gomez and Orians, student demand for a stand-alone major has existed for years.

“I think there’s always been student interest in a stand-alone major in Environmental Studies. [Students] have understood that it was difficult for us to offer a really rigorous one,” Orians said.

Gomez echoed this sentiment, describing new resources now available for the major.

“We feel that, at this point, Environmental Studies is a legitimate interdisciplinary field and we have the resources at Tufts to provide the additional courses we need to offer a robust major. For example, we didn’t even have a lecturer until two or three years ago. Now we do have a lecturer who can offer classes that students can take in our program,” Gomez said.

According to Gomez, the new Applied Environmental Studies major will require 14 classes, a senior capstone project and an internship. The existing major requires ten classes plus an internship. Gomez explained the additional course requirements.

“Those new courses we are introducing are basically skills-based courses. We are adding an environmental communication requirement, we are adding a statistics requirement [and a geographic information system] requirement,” Gomez said.

According to Orians, the addition of the required capstone project is intended to encourage students to incorporate their own interests and expertise.

“The idea is, if you do a capstone right, you get some sort of stakeholder, some sort of organization that would like a study done, and that study will have components from the natural sciences and the social sciences,” Orians said. “Capstone projects like this are really common in environmental studies programs, nationally.”

Gomez added that the new Applied Environmental Studies major will also offer a new class, ENV1: Introduction to Environmental Studies, which will incorporate a broad view of environmental studies field.

“The idea is to show students how to tackle real-world problems in an interdisciplinary way,” she said.

Lily Hartzell, a senior who is currently studying Environmental Studies and International Relations, expressed enthusiasm for the new primary major.

“I think it’s awesome that they are expanding the Environmental Studies program at Tufts, because it’s such an important subject area … I think it is great that they’re keeping the co-major, though, because, as a co-IR and Environmental Studies major, it made my time at Tufts really interdisciplinary and let Environmental Studies inform my IR major,” Hartzell said.

According to Gomez, the new Applied Environmental Studies major will be beneficial in helping students prepare for life after graduation.

“Our hope is to give our students the intellectual and practical skills to be successful practitioners in the field and to give them as much real world experience as possible while they are with us,” she said.


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