September 27, 2010

New global environmental major is a hit with applicants

Nearly 140 applicants this past year indicated an interest in the major

The new global environmental change and sustainability major, introduced on the Homewood campus in fall 2009, has become a hot draw to prospective students.

Nearly 140 applicants this past year indicated an interest in the major and, of those enrolled, 33 selected it as their primary or secondary likely area of study. Homewood undergraduates do not have to declare a major until sophomore year.

John Latting, dean of undergraduate admissions, said that such a high level of interest from applicants in a new major, then only months old, is nearly unheard of and speaks to the vision of the interdisciplinary major’s creators.

Offered through the Morton K. Blaustein Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences in the Krieger School of Arts and Sciences, the new course of study seeks to provide tomorrow’s leaders with the tools needed to address both the science and policy issues related to global environmental issues, such as climate change, deforestation, clean and renewable energy, pollution of fresh water sources and the ocean, and overconsumption of resources.

The program incorporates classes offered through other Krieger School departments and the Whiting School of Engineering. Faculty from the Bloomberg School of Public Health are also involved. Students can choose one of two concentrations: natural science or social science.

Currently, 20 students have declared a major in the subject, and seven students have it as a minor.

Cindy L. Parker, the program’s director and an assistant professor in Earth and Planetary Sciences and the Bloomberg School’s Department of Environmental Health Sciences, said that she is very pleased with the response to a subject that has clearly clicked with student aspirations.

“I think young people are hearing a lot more about the issues threatening the sustainability of life on the planet, and they are excited to learn the skills needed to address issues such as global warming and the preservation of natural resources,” Parker said.

“We hope that students who leave this program will be well-equipped to work on these problems and develop reasonable solutions.”

Parker said that graduates of the program will go on to work for government agencies, the nonprofit sector and private industries, which are increasingly interested in green practices.

Darryn Waugh, chair of Earth and Planetary Sciences, said that it’s too early to tell how many incoming freshman will declare a major in global environmental change and sustainability, but he anticipates enrollment to steadily grow over the next several years.