Southwestern's environmental studies program gets boost
Friday, April 24, 2009 - 00:15
Southwestern University is taking great strides in promoting and teaching about “going green,” and with a new allotment of three grants totaling $1.3 million, they are doing just that! The environmental studies program at Southwestern is receiving a major “facelift” thanks to three separate grants that comprise the more than $1 million in funding.
The grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation is making it possible to hire a new tenure-track faculty member in environmental geography, to add environmental content to courses across the area of study, and to establish a new Center for Social and Environmental Justice. Taken as a whole, this grant is intended to increase awareness of Southwestern’s program.
A portion of the funds will be used to develop a new course entitled, “Introduction to Cultural Studies” with collaborative effort from the Department of Modern Languages, Literature, and Cultures. According to Professor Laura Hobgood-Oster, chair of the environmental studies program, "Unless we understand the cultures that are engaging in environmentally destructive practices, we can’t begin to change the way we live.”
The Mellon Foundation grant will allow Southwestern to hire a new environmental geography faculty member who can begin teaching in the fall semester of 2010. This environmental geography course is seen as “a branch of geography that offers tools for measuring human impact on the environment.” This will be Southwestern’s first full-time faculty member dedicated to environmental studies.
Along with the grant, Southwestern has created a new Mellon Environmental Fellows program. Five students a year will be presented with a $5,000 fellowship to take part in a junior-year study abroad program that has an emphasis on environmental issues. During their senior year, fellows will be expected to convey what they have learned from their study abroad. The Mellon Environmental Fellows will also provide crucial student leadership to the new Center for Social and Environmental Justice. This center will facilitate environmental research projects on and in the Georgetown community of Texas and help students integrate their study abroad experiences into local projects.
A part of the grant will enable the Center for Social and Environmental Justice to hire a full-time staff coordinator who has strong skills in Geographic Information Systems (GIS). The system is a highly advanced mapping system that allows many different kinds of data to be layered onto digital maps. A substantial gift from the Kendeda Fund will be used to buy the equipment for the GIS lab as well as support various sustainability projects on campus, such as the Environmental Fellows program.
Southwestern has also received a grant from the Associated Colleges of the South (ACS) that will permit the Environmental Studies Program to hire a postdoctoral fellow for two years. The ACS position was also funded by a gift from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. John D. Rothlisberger recently accepted an offer from Southwestern for this position and will begin teaching this fall, teaching two courses a year in global ecology. Rothlisberger is finishing a Ph.D. in aquatic ecology at the University of Notre Dame. His focus is on how invasive species are transferred from one lake to another by means of recreational vehicles such as boats.
A unique approach to environmental studies
Southwestern’s environmental studies program was started in the 1999-2000 academic year, and currently offers 19 majors and six minors. Hobgood-Oster believes the new additions to the program will give Southwestern a program that combines a strong grounding in theory with practical experience. She says, “This will give Southwestern a unique approach to environmental studies that no other school in Texas has and few others in the country have.”
To find out more about the new “facelift” of the Environmental Studies Program, check out this link.
As The Beatles said in "Getting Better," … "I used to get mad at my school. The teachers who taught me weren't cool. You’re holding me down, turning me round, filling me up with your rules. I've got to admit it's getting better, a little better all the time." That is, getting better for the planet, a little better all the time.
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