/Environmental studies blooms with new classes
Photo Credit: Reed Strength

Environmental studies blooms with new classes

Spring is in full swing on campus. As students stuff winter clothes into cold closet spaces and break out lighter summer wear, the trees are starting to gain back their green leafy splendor.

The climate isn’t the only influence the environment is having on campus. The environmental studies department is also showing signs of blooming with a plethora of new classes being offered for the Fall term.

According to Jill Wicknick, the co coordinator of the environmental studies program, “More than 25% of full-time UM faculty have taught classes, given guest lectures, or mentored an independent project for an ES student.”

“Though the minor remains small, the program has ballooned beyond our expectations,” added other co-coordinator associate professor of English Lee Rozelle. “In fact, it was necessary for us to hire a new environmental studies professor to administer these programs and teach core ES classes, which is exciting.”

With its website page promising a “green edge in a 21st century job market,” a minor in environmental studies allows students to not only learn about the benefits of living a green lifestyle but also the socio-economic implications behind the practice.

Students will learn about balancing those factors in addition to the give and take of human society to move towards sustainable living in environment and sustainability.

This class will also introduce Dr. Susan Caplow as a tenure-track faculty member in Fall 2014. Wicknick said Caplow will be fresh from earning her Ph.D. in environment and ecology from UNC Chapel Hill.

However, other courses take a more creative approach to understanding environmental factors in one’s life. In Psychogeography and the Creative Writer, Professor Bryn Chancellor will instruct students on the effects our surroundings have on our writing style and creative impulses.

According to Chancellor, the idea for the course was born after she gave a guest lecture in a ES 200 class two years ago. At the end of the lecture, she allowed the class to do writing exercises and realized the potential interest available.

“By going out and walking their regional environments, focusing on keen observation and analysis, students will likely observe/become aware of aspects that they might not have considered,” Chancellor said.

Similarly, in Conservation, Colonialism, and the (Eco)Tourist, the differing ideas of environmental practice in different cultures and how one advertises eco-friendly practices in travel writing will be explored.

Episcopal pastor and adjunct instructor John Wesley will once again teach students about the relationship between spiritualism and the greater purpose of a green lifestyle in Religion & Ecology.

From passages in the Bible that call for man to care for its home to more contemporary new age ideas on Mother Earth and nature as a personified being, those in attendance are encouraged to create and share their own views on spiritual ecology.

Wesley said last semester’s class was full of “lively and productive” discussion. “I think we all share gratitude to the University for adding the environmental studies program to the curriculum.”

For those looking for a more technological route, Introduction to Geographic Information Systems will offer training with geographic mapping technology.

Instructed by assistant professor Virginia Ochoa-Winemiller of geography, the environmental aspects of vegetation, climate and water systems comes into play when designing maps with GIS software.

These variables and more are used to not only create detailed maps, but are also useful as a predictive tool that can help the user make decisions based on future changes or patterns identified through the system

“GIS allows you to make ‘pretty maps’ and use them to answer any question from an spatial (or geographic) perspective,” said Ochoa-Winemiller.

All of these courses will be offered in the Fall term and many are cross listed with other departments. According to Rozelle, faculty members from every college have submitted ideas for ES classes. He calls the ES program a “genuine expression of the Montevallo community.”

For now, the coordinators are focusing on developing the ES Minor and promoting its growth.

However, Wicknick says that Provost Dr. Suzanne Ozment has expressed interest in developing an ES Major, a concept still in its early “green” idea stage

Information on Environmental Studies opportunities offered on campus, a list of ES courses and a checksheet for the minor are available on the university website.

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