Founded in 1988 by its current co-director, Professor of Economics Dr. Ahmed Hussen, and retired biology professor Dr. Paul Olexia, the environmental studies concentration takes an interdisciplinary approach to the study of the natural environment and the way in which human beings relate to it.
The required courses are from the biology, chemistry, and economics departments while at least two other electives can be from the sciences or the humanities.
Hussen says this cross-departmental work is integral to the program, since each field of study adds a different perspective on the environmental issues at hand. For students, this means approaching the environment from different angles, as well as learning to collaborate with students from other majors.
“It has made the hard sciences more accessible to me,” said Departmental Student Advisor, Shannon Haupt K’16. “The non-major science classes I have taken specifically for this concentration have given me a base level understanding of the essential functions of the environment.”
The program is designed to include classes in chemistry and biology so that students have the foundation to understand the science of the environment, while the economics course deals with issues of policies pertaining to the environment.
According to Dr. Hussen, studying the humanities in addition to the science of the environment is essential in order to get a well rounded view on how humans relate to nature.
“We have to understand the relationship of human beings to nature,” he said. “This has been studied through literature, history, and the arts.”
As an Anthropology/Sociology major, Haupt agrees. She says she enjoys studying how the relationship between humans and the environment plays out politically, socially, and historically.
Although Dr. Hussen teaches a course in environmental economics, he says it is important for students to get the best out of their liberal arts education by exploring different disciplines in their studies.
“For students, having different perspectives and knowing what you are against is important,” Dr. Hussen said.