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Ponnada: New degree a good environmental move

BY SRI PONNADA | SEPTEMBER 10, 2012 6:30 AM

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Last week, the University of Iowa made an excellent new addition to its current majors: environmental planning and policy.

Beth Ingram, the assistant provost for undergraduate education, described this major as being an interdisciplinary effort among the Departments of Geography, Political Science, and Anthropology.

It focuses on policy aspects of environmental issues and is intended to attract students interested in the social sciences and help these students develop the knowledge and understanding to analyze environmental issues from a social perspective.

As reported by The Daily Iowan, only a few other schools nationwide offer an undergraduate degree in this area of study. Given the current environmental crisis and its linked economic problems that the state of Iowa has experienced recently, the university has made a very wise decision in choosing to be one of the few.

“Most issues and concerns [facing the environmental and economic crisis] involve a lot of different perspectives, and the good thing about this multidisciplinary degree is that students learn to think about all sides of a problem,” Ingram said.

In terms of professional opportunities, she said, she believes that the major is great for students who are thinking of staying here as Iowa thrives mainly because the farming community has strong ties to the environment.

However, that is definitely not the only option. More and more companies around the world have been “going green” because of economic sustainability as well as consumer and investor demands.

These businesses will want the benefit of having employees who not only understand the scientific aspect of environmental concerns but also the economic, social, and political issues surrounding them.

Although there are currently only four students enrolled in the program, as reported by the *DI*, the Geography Department faculty expect at least 50 students to enroll in the first couple of years after the program’s introduction.

Another aspect of the degree is that all the courses required for it are already taught at the university and no new faculty or resources are required for its support, said Ingram in an email to the DI.

By pulling together various courses that are offered here and introducing the environmental planning and policy major, the university is simply making use of its resources in a very meaningful way.


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