Sustaining Strength in Whitman’s Environmental Studies
The Board of Trustees is matching gifts 2:1 to create the Don Snow Endowed Professorship in Environmental Humanities.
The Environmental Studies (ES) program at Whitman College is one of the oldest of its kind in the nation. The program was founded in 1970, the year of the first Earth Day. Since the mid-1990s, Whitman ES has continued to grow, in parallel with heightened international interest in environmental studies and the environmental sciences. Environmental Humanities, which became a major in 2007 after an increase in interest following the arrival of Don Snow, is the largest single component of ES and in one of the oldest and most Innovative undergraduate programs of its kind. As Professor Snow prepares to retire in Spring 2022, the Board of Trustees is offering a $1 million, 2:1 matching gift incentive to alumni and friends toward creating the $1.5 million Don Snow Endowed Professorship in Environmental Humanities.
Why Environmental Humanities?
The Environmental Humanities major invites students to ask how they can live ethical, just lives on a precarious planet. Courses explore the position of humanity in the environment amid the urgency of the accelerating climate crisis. Grounded in the humanities—areas of study that ask questions about how people understand and express themselves—Environmental Humanities also wrestle with such questions as, “What is the environment?” or “What caused this current crisis?”, as well as questions about both human and other-than-human life. Our futures depend on persuasive, articulate, and moving observers and advocates. The Environmental Humanities major builds on such foundations as nature writing and environmental philosophy in an era of increasing respect for traditional Indigenous knowledge and emergent media. With an equal eye to the past and the future, it explores the values, concepts, and expressive forms necessary for an accountable relationship with Earth and its many forms of life.
In the urgency of this moment, Environmental Humanities explore ways of knowing, generates new concepts, and redesigns interventions into the crises of the environment, imagining new pathways forward that might impel change. The program enables students to engage with cultural forms of the past and present, and to become thinkers, writers, artists, and leaders who will help shape a more just, sustainable, and accommodating future for all of Earth’s occupants.
Whitman’s Environmental Humanities program was one of the first in the nation, and is still one of the few of its kind at a small liberal arts college. A 2019 external review of the ES program noted “Environmental Studies at Whitman represents the best and most innovative aspects of the College. Both qualitatively and quantitatively, the program is a standout: for example, the Environmental Humanities major makes Whitman distinctive amongst its peers, reversing enrollment trends compared to the humanities at other institutions.”
Don Snow’s Legacy
Don Snow, the cornerstone and Chair of the Environmental Humanities program, is retiring in Spring 2022 after 20 years at Whitman College. Known for his commitment to students and engaging lectures, Don joined Whitman from the University of Montana, where he directed the university’s annual Environmental Writing Institute retreats and developed the humanities component of the Environmental Studies Program. In 1984, as executive director of the Northern Lights Institute in Missoula, he launched Northern Lights Magazine, a quarterly journal of arts, politics, and nature in the Rockies. The publication became a community, connecting writers, artists, and readers, and allowing many beginning writers to publish their first works.
Establishing the Endowment
Hiring a tenure-track professor to replace Don is crucial in continuing the health and viability of the Environmental Humanities program and will provide the opportunity to cement Whitman as a premier place for the undergraduate study of Environmental Humanities. Elevating Don Snow’s non-tenured appointment to an endowed tenure-track position upon his retirement will require raising $1.5 million. The Board of Trustees has committed to sustaining this position if fundraising is successful, and is offering the first $1 million as a 2:1 matching gift incentive for donors. The College seeks an additional $500,000 to fully endow the position in Don Snow’s name. With your help, the Environmental Humanities major at Whitman College will continue to be a distinctive program that prepares undergraduate students to be the thinkers and leaders the world needs to solve the complex environmental challenges of our time. To learn more about this opportunity, contact Alison Wallisch at email@example.com. 509-527-5020, or 345 Boyer Avenue, Walla Walla, WA 99362.