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Global Change joins LSA/SNRE Program in the Environment

The University’s program in Global Change is undergoing a change of its own. Its new home is in the joint Program in the Environment offered by LS&A and the School of Natural Resources and the Environment (SNRE).

The move is designed to provide Global Change with stronger administrative backing and faculty involvement. Previously taught under the University course division, the interdisciplinary, three-class sequence joins the recently established program in the environment, which enrolled its first students this semester.

“It’s a logical relationship,” says Ben van der Pluijm, coordinator of the Global Change minor and Global Change I (Physical Processes), the first course in the sequence. “It’s a good move because it gives Global Change a much bigger boost instead of being a ‘fringe’ program.”

John Knott, interim director of the Program in the Environment, echoes those sentiments. “I think it has the advantage of bringing the major efforts in environmental education under the same roof,” he says. “It will bring successful courses to the program—ones that serve as a model for interdisciplinary education, which is something we’re very concerned with.”

Though course numbers and department designation for Global Change are different, the program itself remains untouched. Students can minor or take courses in it, much like they did before. The move was designed to streamline the Program in the Environment.

Students now are more apt to take notice of the program, van der Pluijm says. Global Change courses soon will be more visible in the LS&A course guide, as part of the “environment” grouping. Previously, they were cross-listed in the University course division and the departments of geology, biology, atmospheric, oceanic and space science, and SNRE.

“We’re seeing larger enrollments in some of the introductory courses,” Knott says of the Program in the Environment curriculum. “They are seeing this as a new option for students interested in environmental studies.”

Increased visibility was one of the primary goals of the move. Some students shy away from Global Change, says van der Pluijm, because they think it’s designed for those planning a career in the environment. “It’s not just catering to train environmental students. It’s meant to give a broad-based education,” he says. “The minor just allows people to pursue that interest without having to go all the way and get a major in the program.”

The interdisciplinary nature of Global Change has attracted students since its inception in 1992, van der Pluijm says. Courses frequently are team-taught and feature faculty from a variety of colleges and departments within LS&A. Now, the department’s range of expertise is even greater, he says.

“That’s the fun in the whole process. That’s why so many faculty signed up to do it,” he says. “It’s nice to have a home that puts like minds and interests together.”

The Global Change minor is something of a rarity in LS&A. Van der Pluijm refers to it as a “front-loaded” minor, or one that allows students to complete it in the first two undergraduate years. Many of the required and elective classes are at the 100 or 200 level and remain open during registration periods for freshmen to select, unlike other minors that require numerous upper-level courses. Intro-level Global Change courses are taught almost entirely by full professors.

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