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SMC to institute new minor

Olivia Brach | Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Saint Mary’s students who want to go green with their degree will get the chance this fall when the Environmental Studies department offers a minor in their program for the first time.

Christopher Cobb, assistant professor of English, will direct the new minor.

“[Environmental studies] brings together natural science, social science, the humanities, and [professional life] to understand and solve environmental problems,” Cobb said.

Current and prospective students expressed interest in environmental studies as the discipline increases in popularity at liberal arts colleges, Cobb said.

“[The new minor arose from] ongoing interest in environmental issues on behalf of the students,” Cobb said. “The actual development of the program was initiated by faculty interest.”

Initial efforts for a minor in environmental studies began four years ago. Cobb said the plans came to fruition when he teamed with Dr. Cassie Majetic, professor of biology at the College.

“Our goal is to incorporate not just the scientific disciplines but to help students understand how many perspectives and disciplines contribute to understanding and solving environmental problems,” Majetic said.

Cobb said formal approval of the minor occurred in three steps. First, Majetic and Cobb comprised a “prospectus” that demonstrated the need and value for the minor, Cobb said. Faculty Dean Patricia Fleming then approved the plan.

Once the prospectus was approved, the duo created a formal proposal that included a full design of the minor, required courses and objectives. The proposal was then presented to the curriculum committee. After the formal proposal was approved, academic affairs, the ultimate decision making body, gave final approval.

Cobb said the interdisciplinary minor, which consists of sixteen total credit hours, will draw from courses in English, humanistic studies, political science, nursing and justice education.

Students in the minor will also take three courses directly related to environmental studies, Cobb said.

Cobb and Majetic said they have high hopes for those students who choose to pursue the new minor.

“I hope that the students will gain the knowledge and skill to make a difference in the world, as our society struggles to make our way of life sustainable,” Cobb said. “[I hope students] develop an awareness of their relationship to nature in a way that will be enriching to their lives”.

Majetic said she hopes students will learn to engage others in dialogue about environmental concerns and advocate for environmental change.