Initial Publication Date: October 16, 2017

Environmental Sociology Program at Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University (FAMU)

Phyllis Gray-Ray, Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University

Environmental Sociology Program at Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University (FAMU)
In terms of putting environmental and social sustainability into action in courses and programs, The Department of Sociology and Criminal Justice at Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University (FAMU) is proposing an Environmental Sociology track within the Sociology major concentrating on the environment, health and safety, risk mitigation, and community involvement. The department will also propose to include a Minor for non-majors (i.e., Environmental Inequalities) who wish to obtain a secondary area of study focusing on environmental social justice and community involvement. To accomplish this goal, FAMU requires a number of steps within the process of curriculum reviews of new programs or modification to existing ones.

After the department submitted the proposed Environmental Sociology Program request to the College Curriculum Committee, it then goes to the University Curriculum Committee for approval. One of the challenges with this process is that the committees are mostly composed of faculty members who do not meet in the summers when the proposal was submitted. The proposal is currently undergoing review by the appropriate committees. If the program is approved, then a number of additional challenges will be present, including offering the courses within the normal course rotations, recruiting faculty members to prepare new courses, hiring at least one additional faculty member with expertise in the area, as well as marketing and recruiting students to the new area.

Once the proposed program is approved and functioning, the department plans to utilize a number of strategies within the local community and nationally. Adding the Environmental Sociology track will give the Department of Sociology and Criminal Justice an opportunity to introduce its students and others to the potential benefit that the environment exerts on their day-to-day behaviors. Learning how important some of their decisions are to the advantage of all members of the community is important to community cohesion and the community's ability to survive an unexpected event. In addition, the department also plans to develop partnerships to establish career paths for students with the state and local governmental agencies that are responsible for disaster preparedness, environmental policies, and administration. Further, the department is in a unique position to assist The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and other environmental agencies to meet the changing demands of industry, such as a diverse workforce. For example, structuring programs around the environment would fit well with the department's current curricula that include data collection, analysis and presentation, and will be helpful in explaining community resilience and sustainability.

While many people are familiar with the term environment, most only think of different parts of their communities and their families, but not the social, political, legal, economic, or health and safety aspects of the total community. The collaboration with the FAMU School of the Environment, and the University's Sustainability Institute would give the department an additional discipline and resources from which to recruit, train and prepare students and other interested persons, to work in many communities in the United States and the world that are facing environmental concerns resulting from age, catastrophe, population shifts and other changes in the environment. As NOAA and other environmental agencies begin to take a larger role in community safety it becomes more important that the community remains as intact as possible, which will require knowledgeable people that can better relate to the needs and concerns of the community being served, especially those from minority and disadvantaged populations.

Several research faculty through their involvement in varying communities from large urban areas to small rural towns, will bring a fresh perspective to communicating directives designed to change behavior to avoid a catastrophe or to help repair the damage after one. Students would further prepare for a different type of community involvement that would allow for a greater role in outlining the highlights and environmental changes a community may be forced to make because of changing perceptions and attitudes surrounding a community's situation.

The department envisions recruiting students from within sociology and criminal justice initially, as they can be immediately prepared to join the surrounding communities that may need immediate assistance. Students from other disciplines could double major or obtain a minor to increase their marketability while becoming productive, contributing community members. Additionally, the department will be a part of the University's recruitment effort within high schools and community colleges in surrounding cities and states, as well as use different communication advertisements to attract new students, and provide general information at conferences.

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Environmental Sociology Program (Microsoft Word 2007 (.docx) 14kB Oct16 17)