Founded 1901

Royal Purple

Founded 1901

Royal Purple

Founded 1901

Royal Purple

New major may focus on environmental sciences

The College of Letters and Sciences is hoping to approve a new environmental science major to help students understand the importance in natural issues.

Dean of College of Letters and Sciences Mary Pinkerton said the new major would be a great addition to the college.

The college started another major two years ago, integrated science and business, which also includes a water emphasis, Pinkerton said.

The environmental sciences major is chaired by Associate Dean David Travis, who said the major still has a lot of work yet in terms of fully developing the major for approval by the UW System.

“This will be a major that focuses on the science of environmental issues and also the policy related to those problems,” Travis said.

The environmental sciences major is undergoing the second part of a two-stage process. UW System recently approved the college for an entitlement-to-plan, which gave Travis, along with various other faculty members, the right to design a new major within the College of Letters and Sciences.

Travis said the next step is the authorization-to-implement. After planning out details on how the major will be taught, Travis will write a proposal as early as this fall to the UW System for a final approval.

“We hope that it will be ready for students as early as January, but it might not quite be ready until fall 2010,” Travis said. “It’s just a matter of getting it all set and having the bow tie on it to make it official.”

Within the major, students will have the opportunity to focus in different subareas. The sciences part of the major will be taught by classes dealing with biology and geosciences to help students learn the environmental issues and the science behind it, Travis said.

The policy area of the major will present more of a broad field by offering courses in the areas of political science, sociology, history, philosophy, religious studies and English.

“We’re hoping everybody who graduates from this major will have a broad understanding of the issues that our environment presents and how to deal with those problems,” Travis said.

The college has had a lot of interest expressed towards them by students wanting an option to major in an environmental field. Travis said students have been interested in the topic for years, but the college has been waiting to have all the right faculty in place before taking the next step.

Within the past five years, the college has hired multiple faculty members that show expertise in the different areas of environmental sciences, Travis said.

“Now that all the pieces are in place, it really supports this major,” Travis said. “We have the resources and we have a nature reserve on campus, which allows students to experience some of this hands on.”

The college currently offers a minor in environmental studies, which began about 10 years ago. The minor has had over 50 students, with many of them expressing a great interest for a similar major, Travis said.

If approved by the UW System, the major will present students with career opportunities in the Department of Natural Resources, Environmental Protection Agency and environmental consulting firms.

“Environmental problems are only going to get more common with the increased population and the demand that we have for natural resources,” Travis said.

Travis said he wouldn’t be surprised to have at least 100 students majoring in environmental sciences within the first few years.

“Potentially, it could become one of the largest majors on campus down the road,” Travis said.

The college has started discussing the idea of a potential partnership in the program with UW-Milwaukee. Travis and other faculty involved in the creation of environmental sciences also hope to partner up with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources to give students the opportunity of internships throughout the state.

Travis said the faculty involved in the process is very passionate about the subject and to be able to contribute to classes by advising students in environmental issues.

“I’m hoping it’ll get approved pretty quickly,” Travis said. “We’ve got nothing but implications from folks at the UW System that they are really positive about this new major.”

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Founded 1901
New major may focus on environmental sciences