Initial Publication Date: May 9, 2012

Nascent BA Program in Environmental Analysis and Sustainability

Doug Yule, Geological Sciences, CSU Northridge

Our Department has a four-year plan, starting this year, to design and implement a new Bachelor of Arts Program in Environmental Analysis and Sustainability (EAS) that will prepare students to face one of greatest challenges facing humans in the 21st-century: the development of sustainable resources and preservation of natural systems that are under increasing strain from economic expansion and population growth throughout the globe. Our plan is to make this a deeply interdisciplinary major that partners with Northridge's Sustainability Institute and draws on the insights of the humanities, sciences, business and economics, and social sciences. We aim to prepare our students for careers in many environmental problem-solving fields, including law, policy, conservation, global climate change, urban planning, and resource management. It also offers a solid background for careers in community action, environmental education, and urban agriculture.

One of CSUN's strengths is the fact that it attracts one of the largest and most diverse student bodies in the country. However, although the geology baccalaureates reflect the diversity of the campus, they are few in number, trained to be competent technical geoscientists for entry-level professional careers and post-graduate work in the geosciences. We fail to reach the broader spectrum of the CSUN student body who have a keen interest in 'doing something to help the environment,' but who do not have either the preparation to succeed math, chemistry, physics, and the traditional upper-division geology courses or the desire to pursue a career in technical science. We hope that the B.A. in EAS will provide a path for those students interested in taking lower tier geoscience courses in combination with courses that emphasize economic, environmental, and social aspects of human interaction with earth systems.

We face a number of challenges to implement and run this program. First, the current economic climate and budget restrictions imposed on the CSU system does not favor new program development. We realize that a compelling case must be made to earn approval from the Chancellor's office. Through a generous gift to our department we have secured three years of funds to support faculty release time to devote significant time and energy to build a program that will make the strongest case possible. Second, the current and foreseeable budget restrictions will require that any new program in our department be taught by existing faculty and be shared in part by the BS students. To this end, we are planning to revise our Geology BS so that its required lower tier classes match those required by the new BA in EAS. In most cases it will take one year for all geology majors to complete the lower tier courses, which will allow them sufficient time to decide upon the correct path--to move on to upper tier geology courses and a BS degree or to pursue the EAS path and a BA degree. This has the advantage of strengthening our department by attracting new students to our classes as well as giving these students additional pathways to graduation.

Our plan is to create a program in which a student who majors in EAS will: 1) gain a basic understanding of earth materials, systems, and structure, 2) engage, assess, and critique an interdisciplinary scholarly literature, 3) apply relevant theoretical techniques and methodological insights to environmental issues across the disciplines, 4) speak and write clearly and persuasively, and 5) understand the real-world dimensions of environmental problem-solving. We hope that BA EAS majors can apply this knowledge and skill set to any career, be it in the public or private job sector.