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Environmental Program Philosophy

Innovation and Integration Across the Curriculum

“The environment” by definition is composed of separate but interrelated components requiring an interdisciplinary approach to understanding. Any study of the environment or solution to environmental problem requires a minimum level understanding of multiple fields of sciences and the process of science, as well as the historical, social, political, cultural, economic and ethical perspectives that are inherent and vital components of any ecological or environmental system. We also believe strongly that students learn best by doing and can only learn to solve problems by being challenged to do so in genuine settings.  

Our curriculum utilizes the valuable expertise and perspectives of faculty across campus and from different disciplines, and we provide ample opportunities to learn through experience. Most importantly we intentionally integrate these varied perspectives, fields of knowledge, and practice through a core sequence of three “ES Integrative” courses. These are designed to help students first discover their interests, then define goals and direction, and finally reflect on their four years of diverse learning experiences in order to form, for themselves, the "big picture" of who they have become and where they want to go.

Our intent is for our students to fully understand, and be able to communicate clearly what it is they have learned, what they can do, and why they want to do it.

ES 200 Beta Missouri River (early sophomore year)– Discovery and introduction to many ways of engaging with ‘the environment’. Students and faculty from different disciplines spend 4 days floating down the Wild and Scenic Missouri River learning to observe the natural world and exploring an awe inspiring landscape from the different perspectives of ecology, geology, archeology, river hydrology, land and resource management…. as well as through the eyes (and words) of the explorers Lewis and Clark, from the perspectives of nature writing, art, theology and spirituality. During the rest of the semester the class meets weekly with a variety of visiting environmental professionals who describe their diverse career paths and experiences, and introduce to students the many types of opportunities and careers that exist for them.

ES 395 Environmental Research and Writing  (soph-junior)-  Students define an interest area and design their individual plan of study, including goals for research or internship experiences and career direction. Scientific practice, research methods, project design and proposal writing, as well as exploratory internship/job/graduate school searches and applications all form the basis for the required writing intensive course within the major. Students prepare a comprehensive proposal for scientific research or a project that they may continue to pursue via thesis or intern experience.

ES 400 Omega Capstone. (graduating senior) Each student reflects on their individual course of study and their journey of learning about themselves, the environment, and their own aspirations for after college. Students compile a portfolio of projects and accomplishments that demonstrate their knowledge and abilities, then work with faculty and peers while they search for and apply to graduate school, jobs, or other post graduate experiences.