A Dynamic Environmental Science Curriculum at the University of New Mexico
Monday 1:45pm Tate 105
Oral Session Part of Monday B: Student Learning: Curriculum Design, Program Design, and DEI
Gary Weissmann, University of New Mexico-Main Campus
Corinne Myers, University of New Mexico-Main Campus
Louis Scuderi, University of New Mexico-Main Campus
Lindsay Worthington, University of New Mexico-Main Campus
The Environmental Science degree at the University of New Mexico provides a successful and dynamic curriculum training students in key skills that support successful careers and graduate studies in environmental and/or Earth science. The curriculum was designed to (1) build a strong and inclusive community of students, (2) teach critical skills, such as GIS, computational, and analytical methods, (3) develop critical research/workplace skills, including presentation, literature search, and scientific method approaches to problem solving, and (4) approach environmental science from a systems science perspective. Courses are designed to scaffold key concepts and analytical skills in environmental science throughout the curriculum, including atmospheric and ocean circulation, biogeochemical cycling, water movement and processes, interactions between the solid and fluid Earth, and interactions and coevolution of life and a dynamic Earth. The portal entry class focuses on the importance of systems thinking and introduces many of the topics that students will be exposed to throughout the major while introducing important skills, such as GIS, quantitative analysis in Excel, literature search, and presentation. Central core courses focus on specific topics or skills needed in environmental science with increasing quantification as students work through the curriculum. These classes always link topics to the Earth systems, and in many cases include Course-based Undergraduate Research Experiences (CUREs) at multiple levels. Topics include Earth Materials, Life in Earth Systems, Water in Earth Systems, Climate Dynamics, and Statistics for Earth Scientists. The capstone course is project-based utilizing skill sets practiced throughout the rest of the curriculum and focuses on a place-based group research project (e.g., methane releases from petroleum production in New Mexico). Assessments support that students are able to quantitatively evaluate aspects of the Earth system, that students experience increased access to research opportunities, and support cohort formation and sense of belonging.