Kent State Offers New Environmental Studies Degree
Promoting awareness of the environment and its importance has long been a global challenge, but a new degree offered at Kent State University is designed to ensure that graduates take their place in the world as well-rounded, well-educated environmental stewards.
Offered for the first time in fall 2017, the Bachelor of Arts in Environmental Studies is an interdisciplinary degree that provides an understanding of not only the environment, but also how graduates can use their education to influence and protect the world around us.
The environmental studies degree has been offered at other universities since the 1960s, says Professor of Geography David Kaplan, who was the catalyst for establishing the degree at Kent State after seeing how well received the program was at other universities.
“I spent a semester at the University of Oregon and saw that they had all of these students enrolled in their environmental studies program,” Kaplan says. “I asked around and found out this was an enormously popular program and thought ‘I can’t believe Kent State doesn’t have something like this.’”
And so, Kaplan began what would become a three-year process to establish the degree at Kent State. Because of the interdisciplinary nature of the degree, the process took more time because other departments were involved in the program’s creation.
Students enrolled in the program will take courses in biology, geology, sociology and geography. Other coursework will come from political science, philosophy, economics and history, says Kaplan, the program’s director.
“It’s truly interdisciplinary,” Kaplan says, adding that students can tailor their coursework to meet their specific career goals. Kent State University at Stark also began offering the degree this current academic year.
The time is right for environmental studies at Kent State, says Kaplan, because current and subsequent generations of students will “get it.”
“If you look at people under the age of 35, they realize the environment is going to be more and more important as time goes on,” Kaplan says. “They are concerned about pollution. They see how our economy is becoming a greener economy and how companies are making efforts to be LEED certified. [They notice] various efforts to create more sustainable transportation and several other environmentally sensitive initiatives.”
So, what kind of jobs can an environmental studies major get? Kaplan’s list is long.
“Almost every public or private organization has some kind of environmental office,” he says. “And as the environment starts facing bigger issues, the work of these graduates becomes even more important. We will need people in key positions who care and are worried about the environment. There will be a lot of options.”
Kaplan says the degree will appeal to students who are passionate about the environment and how they can make a difference within it.
“Once people find out more about this degree, there will be a lot of people who see that they can find their joy in it,” Kaplan says.