A new environmental sustainability major was approved last Wednesday by the Cornell Faculty Senate and will be available to students in the College of Arts and Sciences in addition to students in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences by fall 2018.
The new major will make the current environmental and sustainability sciences major available to CAS students and include concentrations in the humanities and social sciences, according to Prof. Christine Goodale, ecology and evolutionary biology.
“We sought to build on existing strengths in both colleges and to provide a single cross-college major that would expand interdisciplinary approaches for studying the environment and sustainability,” she said.
Ted O’Donoghue, a senior associate dean in the arts college, added that the major was developed in order to spark interest among CAS students and faculty in matters involving the environment and sustainability.
The major will aim to combine the sciences and the humanities in considering real world and practical implications of environmental and sustainability issues, according to the University.
Goodale, who chaired the committee that had originally pitched the idea for the new major in Fall 2015, believes an interdisciplinary understanding of the environment is critical for students.
“I think we need to train students to understand not only the atmospheric drivers and ecosystem impacts of climate change, but [also] to evaluate practical policies to address it and to better communicate about it with the general public,” she said.
With an estimated 70 students graduating under this major per year, the Cornell Faculty Senate hopes to see a consolidation of Cornell’s strengths in the environmental sciences while also gauging interest in the merger between two seemingly unrelated subjects: environmental sustainability and the humanities.
“I think we should train students across this spectrum of approaches and that we’ll improve our respective areas of expertise by becoming familiar with other disciplines,” Goodale said.