Environmental Studies

parker and team

Tim Parker, workshop coordinator, assistant professor of biology

Description: Our workshop will bring together faculty from the humanities, the social sciences and the natural sciences to identify and analyze important concepts at the foundation of environmental studies. "Environmental Studies 120" is an unusual class. It is an introduction not to a single discipline but to a broad array of ideas and information from across the spectrum of academic disciplines. We introduce students to concepts and information with intellectual roots in philosophy, literature, economics, sociology, politics, biology, chemistry, physics and elsewhere. Because we expect our students to develop proficiency in analyzing environmental issues from interdisciplinary perspectives, we believe it is important to model interdisciplinary analysis beginning here in "Environmental Studies 120." This poses challenges. As environmental studies instructors we value interdisciplinary problem-solving and have environmentally relevant expertise outside of our individual disciplines, but all of us recognize that we have room to grow as interdisciplinary scholars and educators. Thus, we seek this opportunity to learn not only each others' perspectives on the essential content of this interdisciplinary course but also the perspectives of committed environmental studies educators from an even broader selection of disciplines.

How will you accomplish this? We will have seven meetings, each devoted to a different environmental topic, and an eighth concluding meeting. The topics to be explored are energy and climate, agriculture and the Green Revolution, natural resource management, biodiversity and conservation, pollution and human health, water resources and allocation, and individual choice. Prior to attending each workshop session, all participants will read a series of short pieces assigned by each participant. During the session we will discuss our individual disciplinary and interdisciplinary perspectives on the topic and work to identify concepts and information that should be part of the foundation that "Environmental Studies 120" provides.

How will this work be applied to your curriculum/classes? At the end of the process, we should each have more sophisticated interdisciplinary perspectives on a range of environmental issues, along with improved ideas for exploring these topics with students through readings and classroom work. We also expect the workshop to foster interdisciplinary perspectives in the teaching of any other classes taught by the participants.

Will students be involved in your workshop? Because the workshop is explicitly focused on the development of a particular course and major, students are the direct beneficiaries.

Why is this cross-disciplinary approach important? This workshop supports a fundamentally interdisciplinary program: Environmental Studies. Environmental problems cannot be understood from the perspective of any single discipline. We must be able to train our students to approach problems from the perspectives of multiple disciplines and to synthesize these into an interdisciplinary analysis.