An interdisciplinary program, Environmental Studies draws students from varied backgrounds. Ideally students bring skills from several disciplines to bear on questions regarding the relationship between people and the environment. The program is built around five key concepts: scale, systems, place, values, and change. Environmental problems (and solutions) occur at different scales from local to global. Ecological systems, political systems, and social systems interact in complicated ways. Sense of place, place attachment and values are key factors that must be incorporated in successful solutions to environmental problems. Understanding change, and effecting change, are key skills for anyone working in the environmental field.
There has always been a risk in liberal arts education that knowledge will become detached from practice, that students will become intellectual jugglers of arcana, unable to affect the world. Recently undergraduate education has been criticized for disconnecting academic ideas and scholarship from social and environmental settings. The Environmental Studies Program seeks to "ground" students in two ways - first, by emphasizing demonstrated competence in real-world skills and second, by attempting to connect students with a landscape or community.
The Environmental Studies Program emphasizes demonstrated competence in these areas: understanding of ecological theory; skill in descriptive observation; skill in quantitative measurement and statistical analysis; computer literacy and comfort with several types of software; communication skill in both writing and public speaking; service to the community; and local sense of place.
Environmental Studies students are drawn out of the classroom to consider complex issues that require multi-track thinking - analysis from the natural sciences and solutions from the social sciences and humanities. Students are encouraged to find a site or a community, distant or close at hand, that they will seek to understand, communicate about, and possibly improve. Naturally enough, many students find research topics or sites in southwest Florida, a provocative mix of burgeoning sprawl and shrinking natural areas. In addition, the campus itself has become an object of recent study, as the focus of several classes and tutorials. For example, one recent student project turned expanse of lawn into educational gardens.
The most successful students are able to align their personal academic interests with the needs of some community, asking and answering questions that have real application. While most choose the Environmental Studies Area of Concentration, students can meet requirements in two areas for a double Area of Concentration such as Environmental Studies and psychology.
For program requirements, click here for the General Catalog.
Academic Learning Compacts