UNL Environmental Studies Programs: Goals, Strengths, and Challenges
David Gosselin, Environmental Studies, University of Nebraska-Lincoln
Overarching goal of your program
The Environmental Studies major at UNL is designed for students who want to make a difference and contribute to solving current as well as future environmental challenges on a local to global scale. The program requires students to acquire a broad-based knowledge in the natural sciences, social sciences and the humanities as well as develop competency in a specific discipline. UNL emphasizes a holistic, systems-based approach and a framework of sustainability. The Environmental Studies major provides students with a degree and the skills necessary to work across disciplines and to be competitive in the job market.
Strengths of program design
The strengths of the program are that it: 1. uses an educational approach that is consistent with calls for improved learning in higher education based on how people learn (Zemsky, 2009; Bransford et al. 2000); 2. creates opportunities for students to develop 21st century skills that are necessary for long-term professional success, emphasizing collaboration; critical thinking/problem solving; ethics/social responsibility; professionalism/work ethic; creativity/innovation; and lifelong learning/self-direction (CISCO 2008; P21 2010); 3. support the United Nation's vision of education (UN, 1992, 2002), that is, "linking social, economic, political, and environmental concerns" which "demands a deeper, more ambitious way of thinking about education, one that retains a commitment to critical analysis while fostering creativity and innovation;" and 4. focuses on student success whereby students are not only engaged in their own learning, but engaged with the community as well (Bransford et al. 2000).
One or more challenges of implementing and running your program
Our number one challenge is that the program currently is implemented by one part-time faculty who serves as program director and a full-time academic coordinator/advisor implement the program that currently consists of approximately 110 students. These two people are responsible for the facilitation of six core courses consisting of 13 student credit hours including a "capstone" senior thesis experience. Student credit hour generation has increased from around 70 student credit hours in academic year 2008-2009 to nearly 600 in 2010-2011.
Brief summary of how the program prepares students for their future careers
Upon completion of the program students have been prepared to: 1. Converse in systems-based analysis related to sustainability issues and demands of global society; 2. meet the needs of employers who want employees that possess 21st century skills, especially collaboration; 3. work across disciplines and with others who have different perspectives; and 4. develop creative solutions for complex environmental challenges through a range of opportunities to practice critical thinking and problem solving skills. Our students are competitive in the job market or in accessing graduate programs.