Pre-assembly Participant Questions

Taking Advantage of New Opportunities for Environmental Sciences
The 2003 PKAL Assemblies
What Works - What Matters - What Lasts: The Roles and Responsibilities of Leaders in Undergraduate STEM

Hilton Portland and Executive Tower
September 19 - 21, 2003


The following are questions taken from the Portland registrations regarding environmental research and education (ERE) programs

  • how do programs provide the high-quality scientific training needed to resolve today’s complex environmental issues and still maintain enrollments large enough to ensure their viability?

  • how does a small liberal arts college with a new environmental science major and a brand-new science facility attract students to the program and make it worth their while to pursue the degree?

  • how do you overcome barriers (course scheduling, staffing, physical space, etc.) that detract students from entering into these programs? How do you overcome the barrier of faculty not experienced in working together, and not wanting to?

  • at predominantly undergraduate institutions, how have environmental studies programs integrated the natural and social sciences and humanities into their programs? What role can these different disciplinary communities play in shaping a robust program? How important is a strong humanities component to these programs?

  • what is the institutional context for a strong undergraduate ERE program that seeks to integrate science, public policy, design, managements, economics and other fields?

  • how do you achieve an acceptable balance between the “studies” and the “sciences” dimensions of environmental research and education programs?

  • what are the options and realities associated with the choice of being an interdisciplinary/interdepartmental programs compared to being a more independent environmental science disciplinary program? How best can interdisciplinary BS degrees in environmental science be established that have rigor, breadth and depth? How can collaboration amongst academic disciplinary units best be established to avoid turf issues, to fairly and appropriately allocate credit, and to best serve students?

  • how can we build a program that truly engages both students and faculty in a truly interdisciplinary program? What are the most effective ways to engage....? What is the right balance between basic and applied sciences in expanding our program?

  • how can you build a program that is attractive to the general student body and also to potential and current majors? What specific courses should be offered and what are the requirements for the major? What criteria can be used to determine if courses fulfill requirements for an environmental studies concentration?

  • what are the resources needed and how do you muster the resources and personnel to cover adequately such a diverse field? What are prospects for outside funding?

  • what are the strongest arguments for expanding an undergraduate environmental studies program in the face of tight budgets and competition for scarce faculty positions?

  • assuming breadth, depth, and integration are the three pillars of a strong environmental studies program, what are creative ways to achieve these without committing exorbitant resources?

  • what are the opportunities and the potential for external collaborations to enrich an emerging program? How can we take advantage of the physical (urban) setting for our campus in designed an ERE program?

  • how can we develop meaningful research and field activities for our environmental science students? What kind of research experiences work– on and off-campus? Is it possible to have academic rigor and community outreach in the same class?

  • how do you build a campus-wide commitment to these programs (informed commitment) that leads to an infusion across all curricular and co-curricular programs?