Proposal for an Environmental Studies Minor - ?· Proposal for an Environmental Studies Minor ... group…

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  • Proposal for an Environmental Studies Minor Prepared by the 2014-15 ENST Working Group convened by Rices Center for Energy and Environmental Research in the Human Sciences (CENHS) Jim Blackburn, Civil and Environmental Engineering Dominic Boyer, Anthropology, Co-chair Richard Johnson, ACSEM, Co-chair Jeff Kripal, Religious Studies Elizabeth Long, Sociology Julia Morgan, Earth Sciences Timothy Morton, English Evan Siemann, Biosciences Neyran Turan, Architecture

    Background In 2002, Paul Harcombe (Ecology and Evolutionary Biology) and Walter Isle (English) created and oversaw the first course listings in Environmental Studies (ENST) at Rice in their roles as co-founders of the Center for the Study of Environment and Society (CSES). From its inception, CSES reported to the Provosts Office, which enabled a truly interdisciplinary approach to the ENST course listing. Over subsequent years, the ENST course offerings grew to include: (1) Courses funded directly by CSES, usually taught by adjunct lecturers; (2) Courses taught by Rice faculty or staff explicitly for ENST; and (3) Cross-listed courses originating from other departments and tagged with the ENST designation to draw the attention of students with environmental interests. In addition to these courses, CSES also developed a 67-semester-hour second major in Environmental Sciences, offered as a BA in Environmental Science. In an effort to create a coherent path of study for students interested in the environment, a group of CSES advisory committee members set out to create a minor in ENST in 2007. The intention for this minor, shaped in part by student feedback from CSES-sponsored ENST discussion forums as well as from the counsel of the CSES advisory committee, was to create a holistically oriented and broadly accessible program that by design represented the truly interdisciplinary nature of environmental issues. However, with the economic downturn of 2008, the subsequent departure from Rice of the CSES committee member leading the effort to create the minor, and the loss of key adjunct faculty and courses due to budget cuts, the effort to create a minor in ENST was put on hold. In 2010, shortly after the minor proposal was paused, an inventory revealed that Rice offered 73 courses either wholly focused on environmental and

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    sustainability-related issues (37) or containing a substantial environmental/sustainability component (36) across 16 departments. During the summer of 2014, CSES merged into Rice's new Center for Energy and Environmental Research in the Human Sciences (CENHS), the first research center founded within Rices cross-campus Energy and Environment Initiative (EEI). With the merger, CENHS inherited oversight over the ENST course listings and the second major in Environmental Science. Given the institutional transition, CENHSs Faculty Steering Committee thought it a wise time to review Rices teaching offerings and learning experiences in the area of Environmental Studies, to look at what peer institutions are doing in this area, to listen to the perspectives of our colleagues and students, and to generate a proposal for strengthening the program. CENHS formed the ENST Working Group shortly after the CSES merger (including faculty representing the schools of Architecture, Engineering, Humanities, Natural Sciences and Social Sciences) in order to conduct this review process. Members of the Working Group met with faculty, administrators and students to gather feedback on the strengths and the weaknesses of the current ENST course listings and degree program and to listen to recommendations for improvements. The Working Group organized a town hall meeting in October, which was attended by approximately twenty students, and created several survey questions for the Survey of all Students (see Appendix 1). CENHS staff meanwhile assembled an analysis of what eight peer institutions (Brown, Chicago, Dartmouth, Macalester, Middlebury, Princeton, Tufts, and Yale) are offering their students in the area of Environmental Studies (see Appendix 2).

    Rationale for a new ENST minor From the comparative analysis and campus feedback process, the Working Group concluded that Rice is lagging behind peer institutions in terms of offering high quality learning experiences in Environmental Studies. Seven of our eight comparators currently offer majors in Environmental Studies and six of eight offer minors or certificate programs (see Appendix 2). Meanwhile, during the Town Hall meeting Rice students expressed frustration that despite the abundance of environmental/sustainability related courses being taught at Rice that most of the courses are very specialized (e.g., 300 level+). They pointed out that Rice lacks more introductory level courses in Environmental Studies that also fulfill distribution requirements. Students felt strongly that Rice could offer a major or minor open to all that would provide them a more structured and holistic understanding of pressing real-world issues like climate change, energy transition and environmental sustainability. The findings of the Town Hall meeting were echoed in the responses to the Survey of all Students. With 99% of Rice undergraduates responding, 1,851 (49%) supported the founding of a new interdisciplinary Environmental Studies major at Rice and 2,275 (61%) supported founding a new ENST minor. Even more strikingly, when asked whether they would have considered taking an interdisciplinary ENST major or minor had it been available to them when they enrolled at Rice, 757 answered yes or maybe in terms of a major and 1,457 answered yes or maybe in terms of a minor. Even if survey results must always be taken with a grain of salt, it seems clear that there would be substantial student interest in an ENST minor with a holistic interdisciplinary approach. At the same time, administrative vision and faculty interests are converging in the same area. Rices Energy and Environment Initiative is premised on the idea that all of the intellectual resources of a university need to be brought together in a substantial way in order to help address the energy and environmental challenges that face human civilization and the earths ecosystems. EEIs primary research mission would be well complemented by a similarly cross-

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    campus oriented teaching and outreach program that could leverage Rice and Houstons prominence (particularly in the energy sector) to help establish Rice as go-to destination for frontline undergraduate research and learning experiences related to the energy-environment nexus. Meanwhile, we estimate that the number of courses related to environmental and sustainability issues has more than doubled over the past several years (Rice now offers 170 courses in this area across 38 academic departments; see Appendix 3), an important indicator of the rapidly broadening interest amongst both faculty and students in a relatively short time. Faculty interest is being drawn to environment and sustainability issues undoubtedly because these are among the most complex and important cultural, economic, political and technological problems facing nations across the world today. CENHS itself, which evolved out of a faculty initiative to explore the fields of energy and environmental humanities, is a testament to this trend. We thus feel that campus interest in teaching and research related to Environmental Studies is not only substantive but likely to grow for the foreseeable future.

    Relation to existing degree programs at Rice Rice already offers degree programs related to energy, ecology and environmental issues but these are all housed in single Departments or Schools. Examples include the Energy & Water Sustainability Minor in CEVE or the Environmental Earth Science track of the ESCI B.S. These programs are excellent on their own terms but none are designed to provide a broad, holistic approach to Environmental Studies. Likewise, the Environmental Science B.A. currently administered by CENHS is only available as a second major and thus limited in its appeal especially to students not majoring in the natural sciences. The second major has only averaged 1.5 students/year since its inception for this reason while ENST majors at peer institutions typically average between 30 and 40 students/year. We thus see no danger of duplicating existing learning experiences. The Working Group welcomes the CUCs feedback on the relationship of the proposed ENST minor to the Environmental Science second major and on the viability of the latter degree program going forward. It is our feeling that the current Environmental Science B.A. should remain in place until such a time as we are able to evaluate the impact of the new minor and, if it successful, to develop a proposal for a more holistic Environmental Studies B.A. program in two or three years time. However, we recognize that the current B.A. degree needs work to increase its positive contribution to the Rice undergraduate experience. We also recognize that since CENHS focuses primarily on research and teaching in the arts, humanities and social sciences, it is perhaps not the best administrative home for an Environmental Science degree. Working Group member Julia Morgan has thus offered to discuss with Earth Science whether ESCI would be interested in taking over administration of the current Environmental Science B.A. and developing it toward a more focused (in the natural sciences) but also less restrictive (as a second major) B.S. program, thus allowing CENHS to concentrate its energy on developing a complementary holistic Environmental Studies B.A. program in the future. We welcome further feedback from CUC on the appropriate course of action.

    Minor structure and courses Based upon our review of the structure of similar programs at peer institutions, we propose that the ENST minor consist of six courses, two of which will be introductory overview courses, and four of which will be higher-level electives to be chosen from a list approved by the ENST Working Group, which will re-form as the ENST Faculty Advisory Board if this minor proposal is accepted. Of our six comparators offering ENST minors or certificates, all have structures similar

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    to what we are proposing, e.g., five or six courses total broken down two to three core courses two to four electives. Introductory course sequence: Students will take ENST 101 Environment, Culture and Society and one of the following introductory courses from natural sciences: EBIO 124 Introduction to Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, ESCI 101 Earth, ESCI 107 Oceans and Global Change, or ESCI 109 Oceanography. ENST 101 is a new course that will be team taught by three faculty members representing (one each) the Schools of Architecture, Humanities and Social Sciences and will first be offered in Fall 2015. Each faculty member will teach a module focused on introducing students to what the methods and objectives of their disciplines bring to Environmental Studies. Professors Boyer, Morton and Turan from the Working Group have agreed to teach the Fall 2015 course but we expect that faculty will rotate periodically. Other Rice faculty who have already expressed interest in teaching a module of ENST 101 in the future include Joe Campana (English), James Elliott (Sociology), Gisela Heffes (Spanish and Portuguese), Cymene Howe (Anthropology), Albert Pope (Architecture) and Lisa Slappey (English). CENHS has agreed to provide research account enhancements in recognition of the fact that this is add-on teaching. Electives: Students will be required to take four elective courses with a substantial component devoted to environmental or sustainability issues to complete their minor. Two of these courses must come from the Schools of Architecture, Humanities and Social Sciences and two must come from the Schools of Engineering and Natural Sciences. With over 170 courses already being offered, we imagine that the approved list of electives will expand over time. For the moment, we have created an initial approved list as follows:

    Schools of Architecture, Humanities, and Social Sciences (at least six semester hours from the following):


    course considers the phenomenon of renewable energy, using a social scientific approach to analyze the various forces and interests involved in the development of renewable energy projects (such as hydropower, solar and wind) in both the global North and South.

    o ARCH & ENST 313/613-CASE STUDIES IN SUSTAINABLE DESIGN - This course will explore sustainable design from initial sustainable facility concepts and team organizations, to enlisting community support and process assessment.

    o ARCH & ENST 322/622-CASE STUDIES IN SUSTAINABILITY: THE REGENERATIVE REPOSITIONING OF NEW OR EXISTING RICE CAMPUS BUILDINGS - This course will explore application of high performance, sustainable design to specific Rice University campus and facility targets.

    o ECON 437 & ENST 437 - Energy Economics Discussion of key aspects in the supply and demand of energy. Topics include optimal extraction of depletable resources, transportation, storage, end-use and efficiency and the relationship between economic activity, energy, and the environment. Prerequisite(s): ECON 301 OR ECON 370

    o ECON 461-URBAN ECONOMICS - Deals with the nature and development of urban areas. Various urban problems such as poverty, racial segregation and discrimination, and pollution and environmental quality are discussed. Prerequisite(s): ECON 301 OR ECON 370

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    o ECON & ENST 480-ENVIRONMENTAL ECONOMICS - The economic theories of externalities and common property resources are used to analyze how markets, legal institutions, regulations, taxes and subsidies, and voluntary activity can affect the supply of environmental amenities, such as clean air, clean water, and wilderness areas.

    o ENGL 358-CONSUMPTION AND CONSUMERISM - An exploration of the history, philosophy and culture of eating, drinking, shopping and other forms of consuming.

    o ENGL 459-TOPICS IN LITERATURE AND ECOLOGY - A special topics course that addresses literature and culture from 1750 to the present, with a view to understanding the new geological era that humans have created, and its ecological implications.

    o FOTO 390 & ESCI 380-VISUALIZING NATURE An experimental course combining the scientific disciplines of the earth sciences with the artistic disciplines of creative photography to study the natural landscape and related ecosystems. Instructor permission required.

    o HART 302/568-FROM THE SUBLIME TO THE SUSTAINABLE: ART, ARCHITECTURE AND NATURE - This seminar considers theories and narratives of nature in the crafting of modern and contemporary art and architecture in the Americas.

    o HIST 425-20TH CENTURY AMERICAN CONSERVATION MOVEMENT - Exploration of the American conservation movement from Pres. Th...


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