March 1, 2001

CALS to Offer Major in Environmental Science

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Students in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences with a passion for the environment will soon have the opportunity to develop their interest while working towards a Bachelor of Science degree in environmental science.

College officials are awaiting approval by the State Department of Education and the State University of New York (SUNY) for the proposed major.

“We expect that it will be approved by SUNY and the state within the next 6 to 9 months,” said Prof. Susan Riha, earth and atmospheric sciences.

The major will be implemented next year, according to Tad McGalliard, education coordinator for the Cornell Center for the Environment.

The major’s curriculum will integrate preexisting, cross-disciplinary courses, with a focus on biotic systems, earth systems, economic systems and social systems.

“The Environmental Science Program is designed to be complementary – yet different – from Cornell’s other programs of environmental study. [The student] will take courses that provide an integrative and broad-based program in the physical and social sciences, biology, ecology and economics,” the program’s website states.

Faculty members have been discussing offering an environmental science major for about a decade, according to McGalliard.

A group of 20 faculty members have been meeting for three years to “hammer out the specifics,” he added.

“[Faculty members proposed the major for] several reasons — interest on the part of many faculty and students in developing an environmental science major, to make our strength in environmental teaching and research more transparent to potential applicants, [and] to develop a major that would allow students and faculty the flexibility to develop academic programs that could address new, as well as on-going, environmental issues,” Riha explained.

College officials feel optimistic that the major will benefit faculty and students.

“In general, I think the environmental science major will provide higher visibility to a high quality program already in place and lead to further refinement of the curriculum,” said Dean Sutphin, director of academic programs. “It will be in the best interests of students and the faculty working with this program.”

Furthermore, the major will prepare students for future study or employment in a variety of fields, including the natural sciences, public policy, business management, law or medicine, according to the program’s website.

Archived article by Stephanie Hankin