The new Environmental Science major approved at the last faculty meeting will offer students a chance to pursue the more scientific side of the environment as both a Bachelor’s of Arts and a Bachelor’s of Science.
Associate Professor of Environmental Studies Katie Adelsberger said that the move was something that had long been part of the discussion in the department.
“I know it’s something they had talked about back in the day when they started the program, …” Adelsberger said. “This is something that [they] thought would be, not ultimate goal, but a later goal that we would have the option to do a science track sometime.”
The major will stay within the department and will not necessitate expanding the department, according to Adelsberger. Instead, the major will rely more on cross-listed courses with the other science departments, for instance, BIO 110.
This is what some current students wanted to see from Knox earlier. Senior Claire Schmidt said she is a Biology major because she wanted something more science-based than the Environmental Studies degree. The interdisciplinary science aspect of the new major is an important thing to her.
“I have all the credits and I would have preferred to change it because I like how Environmental Science sounds. I would like that on my rsum because that’s what I focused on in college whereas Biology doesn’t really show [that],” Schmidt said.
Along with her Biology major, Schmidt is earning an Earth Sciences minor. The program is small, but offers something Schmidt hopes to bring to grad school after she works on a project in Alaska on remote sensing from satellites.
Schmidt also said that she would have done the B.S. track instead of the B.A. track. While she is not worried about using the B.A. to get into grad school, she said that she knew it would require more explaining than having a degree with ‘science’ on it.
“I didn’t really want Environmental Studies because I wanted it to seem like I had taken more science for grad schools and for jobs,” Schmidt said.
Adelsberger explained that the B.S. track will also require additional physics and calculus courses, in addition to the biology and chemistry additions to the B.A. The ethics component had to be taken out.
“We’re going to put more sort-of ethics content into some of our science courses in order to balance that a little bit,” she said. “So when I teach hydrology, I’ll do a little bit more with case studies like Flint and water access and bottled water and how that all becomes environmentally justice related.”
The policy side has been one reason some students will be choosing the Environmental Science major over the Studies major. While she acknowledged that the policy side is important and that she wants to have it included in the Science major, sophomore Abbey Robillard said she wanted to focus more on the science side.
“It’s honestly just going to be something that I’m just more interested in and it’s something that I’m going to be able to be more passionate about,” she said.
The increased focus on science in the Environmental Science major opens up the Environmental Studies major to focus more on policy, according to Adelsberger. More importantly, it forces students to think about which track they want to go down when they declare their major, so that they do not get to their senior year and realize they should have been taking other classes to prepare for grad school.
“I think there’s a benefit to making them think about it ahead of time,” she said. “Because one of the problems with our major was that you declared Environmental Studies and then you never had to think about why, specifically. … There was no specificity to what do you want to do with this, and you didn’t have to think about that until you were thinking about jobs.”
The major will be available for students in the fall and they will be able to declare it without needing to change which catalog they want to graduate under.
“I think it’ll be good, for both sides – for students who might want to keep Studies, for people who might want to do Science. It will be more explicit, it will be clearer, they’ll have to make decisions that I think will be helpful,” Adelsberger said.