By MARY BURGER – STAFF WRITER
Environmental Studies was introduced as a major at Centre last year. The Environmental Studies (ENS) major begins and ends with an ENS specific course, but between ENS 210 (Introduction to Environmental Studies) and ENS 500 (Senior Seminar), students take a variety of interdisciplinary courses, such as history or philosophy.
“Seminar tries to make the connections among all those courses. Students do some substantive research project, either more scholarly or more practical in orientation…or some combination of the two…[Seminar] encourages students to discover what they want to do beyond Centre,” Assistant Professor of Environmental Studies Brett Werner said.
Werner is teaching the ENS Seminar course this semester. “There are three approaches I try to teach my students,” Werner said. “The first is consumer choices, such as shopping locally and buying organic. A second environmental option is finding a job in this sort of organization, be it a nonprofit, agency, or continuing education through Graduate School in Environmental Studies. A third option is a sort of middle, gray area. This is how to be an environmental citizen in a way beyond consumer choices. This can include being involved in city planning, city council, or even creating trails and paths for biking and walking.”
The chief component of the Environmental Studies seminar is the final project. These projects can be Centre -based or focused on the Danville community as a whole. This year’s projects include the ideas of local foods in Danville, the Bluegrass Pipeline, food sustainability on campus, and carbon emissions on campus, such as study abroad air travel.
Senior Libby Trevathan is focusing her seminar project on green roofs for campus.
“Green roofs provide aesthetic benefits to campuses and address current issues of sustainability. [They] help conserve and reduce energy costs, maintain water quality by reducing run-off, mitigate CO2 emissions, etc.” Trevathan said. Her research-based proposal explores how green roofs will help Centre meet its goal of being carbon neutral by 2040. “By the end of this 2013 fall semester, I will deliver the completed proposal and a presentation addressed to the senior staff administration on behalf of the ‘green roof initiative.’ If this proposal is passed, I would like to begin construction of the green roof in the spring of 2014 on top of Crounse Hall.”
Senior Monica Pence is also working on a project involving Centre. “I’m hoping to work with Cowan staff on the Real Food Calculator which categorizes food based on measures of sustainability, welfare, and health,” Pence said.
Before it was an official major, Environmental Studies existed as a minor for nine years. This also meant that when it became a major, many of the kinks in the department had already been worked out. “There was an opportunity to realize what [areas] we didn’t have strengths in and work on [fixing] that,” Chair of the Environmental Studies Department Dr. Endre Nyerges said. The program as a minor had included a required capstone project on which students presented at the end of the semester. This project was later removed from the requirements because of the high time commitment it had for a minor. Before this year, students were also able to self-design forms of the Environmental Studies major. These included taking a seminar for a different major and then fulfilling the paper or project component with an environmentally focused topic or by taking some sort of independent study.
The Environmental Studies seminar allows students to explore many different aspects of the major and how it relates to our current world and to local issues. Hopes are high for the seminar projects, which seek to improve the environment in both the Centre and Danville communities. For more information on the ENS major, contact Dr. Werner or Dr. Nyerges.