Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Environmental Sciences: A new name and master's program

Caroline Schwaner, a senior majoring in environmental sciences, tests the water quality of a stream in Madagascar, where she spent last summer conducting research. Photo by Carol Clark.

By Carol Clark

Emory’s Department of Environmental Studies has a new name, the Department of Environmental Sciences, and a new master’s level degree program through the Laney Graduate School, which will start in the fall of 2014.

“We’re not changing our direction with the new name. We’re reaffirming it,” says Uriel Kitron, who has chaired the department since he arrived at Emory in 2008.

“We felt that ‘Environmental Studies’ did not really convey our strong orientation toward research,” he explains. “The majority of our 11 faculty are focused on the natural and health sciences. We also have a few faculty involved in the social sciences, and we plan to increase their number. ‘Environmental Sciences’ encompasses the full range of what we do.”

The department’s emphasis on research gives students many chances to become involved in analysis, lab and field-work early on, Kitron says. The department has projects based in Atlanta and throughout the world.

Another hallmark of the department is extensive collaborations that cut across the University, from public health to business, law, anthropology, biology and other specialties throughout Emory College. The adjacent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention further raises the collaboration quotient and opportunities for research experience.

Caroline Schwaner uses rapid detection tests in the field in Madagascar to screen fecal samples for adenoviruses and rotavirus. Photo by Carol Clark.

The Environmental Sciences masters program (ENVS MS) is being launched due to student demand, Kitron says. Major challenges facing society, including a burgeoning human population, dwindling resources, the growing need for renewable energy and climate change, have heightened interest in the environmental sciences.

“Our masters program will train the next generation of professionals to address the complex interactions between people and their environment, with a goal of advancing ecosystem health, sustainable global development and conservation,” Kitron says.

The program will emphasize research experience and the development of quantitative skills, and will require a thesis. The curriculum will be grounded in the social-ecological systems framework created by Elinor Ostrom. In 2009, Ostrom became the first woman to win the Nobel Prize in Economics for her work “showing how common resources, such as forests, fisheries, oil fields or grazing lands, can be managed successfully by the people who use them, rather than by governments or private companies.”

In addition to drawing from resources of Emory College and Laney Graduate School, the ENVS MS will also tap the support of Emory Law, Rollins School of Public Health and Goizueta Business School.

The program will accept applications from environmental sciences majors in the spring of 2014, which will allow students to complete a BS in environmental sciences and an MS degree in five years, plus one summer to conduct research. By the fall of 2015, the ENVS MS program will open for students with a bachelor degree interested in a stand-alone, two-year ENVS MS degree.

The new program complements the existing programs of the ENVS BS/MPH and the joint ENVS/BBA Concentration in Environment and Sustainability Management.

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