December 14, 2009

Global environmental change, sustainability major created

In an effort to provide tomorrow’s leaders with the tools needed to address both the science and policy issues confronting a world facing global climate change, Johns Hopkins’ Krieger School of Arts and Sciences has created an interdisciplinary major and minor in global environmental change and sustainability.

Offered through the Morton K. Blaustein Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, the new course of study is part of the Global Change Science Initiative, founded in 2007 with a gift from trustee Lee Meyerhoff Hendler to advance teaching and research in areas of earth science that are pertinent to global environmental change.

“The goal of this new major is to bring together courses in those subjects which have a global environmental focus, both from a scientific and a policy point of view,” said Darryn Waugh, chair of Earth and Planetary Sciences. “Students have told us they want to be able to study both the ‘pure science’ around global environmental change issues and also policy and sustainability issues.”

Though the program, which began with the fall 2009 semester, is based in Earth and Planetary Sciences, it incorporates classes offered through other Krieger School departments, the Whiting School of Engineering and the Bloomberg School of Public Health. Subjects include anthropology, biology, chemistry, economics, engineering, history, political science, psychology, physics and sociology, and students can choose one of two concentrations: natural science or social science.

The majority of the courses in the program already existed within the Krieger, Whiting and Bloomberg schools but had not been assembled into a coherent curriculum. However, some new courses have been introduced (including the popular Introduction to Sustainability course) to meet the specific needs of this major, and it is expected that others will be added in the next few years.

Along with 12 required core courses, students take a combination of natural and social science courses; the relative number in the two fields differs depending upon the student’s chosen concentration.

“In the last year of the program, students will work on what we call a capstone project that will provide them with an opportunity to apply the knowledge and skills they’ve acquired to a GECS-related project,” said the new major’s director, Cindy L. Parker of the Bloomberg School of Public Health.

Parker and other faculty will work with students to identify an appropriate project and provide mentorship throughout the capstone project, which could take the form of research, an internship or perhaps an in-depth independent study on a topic of interest, culminating in a paper and presentation.