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Campus News

New courses to bolster Environmental Studies program

Ricky Ochilo, staff writer

Warren Wilson College will be expanding the Environmental Studies curriculum to enhance the College’s focus on environmental problems and issues.

John Casey, professor of philosophy, explained that the College received a grant from the Arthur Vining Davis Foundation to develop and implement a new environmental curriculum. The new courses are Land and Sense of Place, Deep Mapping the Land and Community and Land Use Decisions in South Appalachia. The courses will focus on environmental issues and various impacting factors.

“Environmental problems are a big, multifaceted problem. They have to do with the physical, human and social understanding of the world.” Casey said. He added that a liberal arts college should focus more on these aspects while complementing Sciences, Philosophy and Political Science, which form the background of liberal arts education.

According to Casey, apart from providing a multidisciplinary understanding, the courses will offer a “good pedagogy” for team teaching. Faculty will be encouraged to contribute to the lessons and provide various viewpoints to broaden learning.

The focus of the courses will be to analyze different facets of environmental issues. Casey emphasized that environmental problems have both social and economic issues. He hopes that the courses will provide new and different methodologies to approach and counter these problems.

“We will have a theme to tie courses together. The theme we’ve come up with is earth, air, fire and water,” Casey said.

Casey mentioned that he and Margo Flood, director of the Environmental Leadership Center set up the theme. The earth aspect will look at land issues, fire will focus on energy and alternative means to efficiency and air will be comprised of global weather changes and their resulting effects to the environmental. However, Casey maintained that themes for teaching will depend on what changes occur in the world.

Nonetheless, the program is only funded for the next three years. In the long run, Casey believes that the benefit to the College will be to develop new approaches to tackle ecological issues. He hopes that departments will be able to integrate these courses as electives to fields like sociology, anthropology and global studies.

Students taking the courses will focus on real problems within the local area. For example, the steep slope development, Swannanoa incorporation and the Cliffsdevelopment. These will be part of a service component, which the courses will offer through community based research in Swannanoa and Buncombe county.

Eventually, the courses will spearhead sustainability. Casey explained that sustainability involves several areas. For Casey, sustainability within the courses will focus on social, economic and physical issues within the environmental system. Likewise, integrating those issues will provide a clearer understanding to deal with big problems. In addition, this will influence the College’s attempts to be more sustainable, and encourage wise decision making.

Other issues the courses will focus on under sustainability are land and community. Casey explained that with land they will discuss how it should be controlled, used or left fallow. Also, the relationships between humans and animals will be discussed as they relate to resource preservation. Overall, the focus will be on community responsibility to land and management of resources.

“The courses support academics, work, service, community involvement and environmental concerns, which coincide with the mission of the college,” Casey said.

Even more, they encourage direct relations. Casey maintained that the courses “oblige faculty to cross disciplinary borders” to help students understand big international problems.

The grant also pays for summer internships and will help the College acquire a new Moodle server.

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