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UI adds new environment public policy major

BY BRENT GRIFFITHS | SEPTEMBER 06, 2012 6:30 AM

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Students at the University of Iowa now have the option to add a new major offered by the Geography Department — environmental planning and policy.

The UI is the only school in the state that offers a true environmental planning and policy program, and nationally only a few other schools offer the undergraduate major.

“There are a number of students interested in the major as it draws from a variety of areas including environmental science, policy, political science and even economics,” said UI geography Professor George Malanson.

Before the major was developed at the UI, students had to limit their focus on one interest or scrounge together enough classes to fulfill the diversity of their interests.

And while only four students are currently enrolled in the program, one student said the new major is beneficial to what he wants to do after college.

“The major is really cool because it blends together what I want to do,” said UI junior Sid Hariharan. “Previously, you had to take environmental studies and study demographics case studies, but the new major goes more into the social factors and sociology aspect plus the environmental focus.”

Hariharan said he is interested in either pursuing environmental law or continuing his studies in graduate school.

Faculty members in the Departments of Geography and Political Science began considering the new major a few years ago. The state Board of Regents approved the major on April 25.  

A specific track in the undergraduate program was developed in the Geography Department in the early 1980s, according to the official department website. Environmental anthropology is currently an emphasis in the anthropology major, and there are courses in the School of Urban & Regional Planning regarding the environment.

Malanson said the he believes students have been looking for the major for a long time, and it will attract students to more environmental careers later after college.

The University of Michigan is one of the few schools in the Midwest with a similar program, but it is only available as a graduate degree.

“We noticed that there was a gap in the undergraduate programs,” Malanson said. “Before, if you wanted to major in this as an undergrad, you had to go to one of the small elite liberal-arts colleges on the East Coast.”

There were 147 students enrolled in the environmental-science major in the fall of 2011, according to information from the Registrar’s Office, and there were 74 students enrolled in geography.

Hariharan believes the major will help him standout regardless of if he goes to law or graduate school.

“[Environmental public policy and planning] is a great opportunity because it allows undergraduates to the ability to take course that currently only grad schools are offering,” he said. “It also makes your application unique, because it’s not just a one-subject based science like chemistry but a blend of a few different fields and how they interact.”


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