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EPP degree discussed

Spectrum Volume 17 Issue 35 - June 29, 1995

The final reports of two of the five working groups established during 1994/95 to examine aspects of Virginia Tech's environmental activities have now been submitted. The other three are expected during the next few weeks. Summaries of the completed reports are provided below. Copies of the full reports may be viewed as follows: (1) In Newman Library (entitled "Environmental Studies at Virginia Tech: Working Group Reports 1995," on two-hour reserve under "miscellaneous"); (2) On the World Wide Web, presently as a pilot at http://www.vt.edu:10021/admin/provost/; (3) As personal copies, obtainable electronically or on paper (please specify) from me (for address, see editor's note above).

The contents of the reports are presented exactly as they were submitted. As of now, neither the University Committee on Environmental Studies nor the Provost's Office has taken any action on them. You are invited to contribute to an open discussion by sending written comments to me as soon as possible. Please let me know if you feel that a workshop or forum would be useful. While a definite timetable has not yet been established, I am hoping that we will decide early in the fall which recommendations should be adopted and move rapidly toward implementation.

SUMMARIES FOLLOW:

A. ENVIRONMENTAL STUDIES WORKING GROUP (Chair: Bruce Hull, forestry)

The Environmental Studies Working Group was established in November 1994 to prepare a concrete proposal for serving the needs of undergraduates at Virginia Tech who wish to pursue an environmental major with a significant social science and/or humanities content.

We agree with the recommendation made by the 1993 University Committee on Environmental Studies that there is both a demand and a need at Tech for an environmental major with a significant social science and/or humanities content. In the attached report, we outline a degree in "Environmental Policy and Planning" and recommend its administrative location in the Department of Urban Affairs and Planning or in the proposed School of Public and International Affairs.

The proposed degree fills an important niche. Collectively, the array of "environmental" degree offerings at Virginia Tech provide outstanding breadth and depth. This considerable strength, however, is not well articulated in the university's publications or planning efforts. As a result, there exists a ripe opportunity to raise Tech's profile in general, and recruit excellent students in particular.

We make three specific recommendations:

1. Take the proposed degree in environmental policy and planning (EPP) to the University Committee for Environmental Studies for its comment. Obtain the support and endorsement of the deans and provost for the degree. And, request the Department of Urban Affairs and Planning to formally develop the EPP degree. We expect EPP to be subjected to a formal, open, university-wide review associated with any new degree proposal.

2. Establish a multi-disciplinary curriculum advisory panel to provide UAP with advice on implementation and subsequent management of the EPP degree and its minor. Initially, the Environmental Studies Working Group could serve this function.

3. Develop and implement mechanisms that help students find their way among Tech's numerous environmental degrees and that minimize duplication and fragmentation among the various degrees. Several such mechanisms are suggested in the report.

B. WORKING GROUP ON GRADUATE ENVIRONMENTAL STUDIES (Chair: Erik Nilsen, biology)

A working group was established by the Provost's Office to follow up on the recommendations made by the University Committee on Environmental Studies (UCES) about graduate education in environmental studies at Virginia Tech. Our charge was to examine the justification, goals, framework, and implementation plan for graduate education in environmental studies at Virginia Tech.

The working group was unanimous about the need for a graduate option in environmental studies which will: 1) enhance interdisciplinary literacy of environmental issues in graduate students; 2) provide the potential for cross-subject research programs in environmental studies; 3) foster discourse among faculty members and students in all programs with an environmental component; and 4) enhance the awareness of career possibilities and the ability of graduate students to attain those career choices. The tangible outcome for the students who have completed this option will be a certification statement on their transcripts.

The graduate option in environmental studies (GOENS) should be implemented in four basic steps. First, a steering committee must be established who will be intimately involved with planning all stages in the development of this graduate option. Their first responsibility will be to establish a communication network to provide a forum for environmental studies at the university level. Next, the option should be initiated by establishing a seminar series (one credit) plus six credits of course work designed to broaden the students' understanding of environmental issues. If there is enough interest in GOENS among graduate students, the faculty, and departments, the option should mature by designing and implementing two courses, specifically tailored to enhancing interdisciplinary understanding and decision-making capabilities of graduate students in environmental issues. Finally, the option should reach maturity by incorporating a career-advising mechanism, a biannual symposium series, and other resources to assist graduate-student development in environmental studies.

(Editor's note: Information provided by W. David Conn, special assistant to the provost, Virginia Polytechnic Institute & State University Blacksburg, VA 24061-0132, USA

E-mail: conn@vt.edu Tel: (703) 231-6122 or -7508 Fax: (703) 231-7211 NOTE: Area code 703 will change to 540 effective July 15,1995)