Clustered Academic Minors in
Environmentally Sustainable Practices
|Interdepartmental Minors in:
Overview of the Program
To address the growing need for students at Ball State University to increase their environmental literacy, a cluster of interdepartmental minors has been designed to offer new interdisciplinary opportunities for students to study environmentally sustainable practices. Existing academic minors in Environmental Policy and in Energy have demonstrated the potential for such interdisciplinary curricula to succeed. An advantage to this cluster of academic minors is the opportunity to reinforce Ball State's unique capacity to support cross-disciplinary work in environmental studies and to bring together students from respective minors to share their diverse perspectives as they contribute to a common, integrated, closing course of this cluster.
Ball State has a proven record of commitment to environmental issues, including the work of the Provost's Green Committee, the regular summer faculty professional development workshops in Environmental Education, and the recent success of two back-to-back international Greening of the Campus conferences. Provost Warren Vander Hill presented the concept of the clustered minors program at the "Greening of the Campus II: The Next Step" in September, 1997:
"The clustered minors will offer exciting new opportunities for the university to build experiences in environmental studies crossing disciplinary lines. Eventually, they could allow students in each of the university's seven academic colleges to complement their major area of study with an environmental minor."
Recognized as a leader in innovative educational technology, Ball State has further demonstrated its commitment to innovation in higher education by applying the teacher-scholar model to advanced learning. Now, Ball State is poised to take another innovative step forward through an expansion of its environmental education curriculum with the creation of the Clustered Academic Minors in Environmentally Sustainable Practices.
Each of the seven colleges has been challenged to bring forth at least one appropriate minor to add to the mix. To initiate the program, a cluster of academic minors in environmentally sustainable practices has been developed that presently includes five minors: Environmental Policy; The Environmental Context for Business; Environmental Contexts in Health Care; Sustainable Land Systems; and Technology & The Environment. With the creation of these exemplary minors, a challenge exists for remaining departments and colleges across campus to consider participating in the clustered minors program.
Built primarily on existing courses, the academic minors offer a cluster of options for students campus-wide. Creation of interdepartmental minors is a two-way arrangement. First, they give encouragement to students wishing to "break out" of their majors to engage other disciplinary areas in holistic ways. Second, interdepartmental minors bring in students from other disciplinary areas, expanding the potential for integrative thinking by broadening and diversifying the intellectual networks of students on campus.
The cluster of academic minors will enable students to take a series of existing intermediate level courses to provide a foundation in environmental studies. In some programs, departments will choose to offer specialized courses for non-majors to provide the necessary foundation for learning. Subsequent to exposure to this curricular core, students will sit elbow-to-elbow with those majoring in other fields as they flesh out their experiences with upper-level courses from the program menus.
A further advantage to a clustering of such courses of study is that core curricula can be shared among all the minors, truly reinforcing the notion of the commonality or disciplinary overlap of environmental issues. Three core courses that have been identified include Ecology (BIO 216), Environmental Economics (ECON 311/NREM 303), and Environmental Ethics (PHIL 230). To this core, each program offers its students either a prescribed set of courses, or a selection of electives to build depth of knowledge in the subject area. An anchoring course – either existing or newly created for the purpose of the minor – presents a unique focus for the minor. As presently structured, students in each participating minor conclude their minors with a new closing course – or capstone experience – Creating a Sustainable Future (ID 400), which draws its power from the presence of invited visiting scholars, working closely with students who bring diverse perspectives from the respective minors, to develop solutions to holistic real-world problems.
Creating a Sustainable Future (ID 400) draws its power from the presence of invited visiting scholars, working closely with students who bring diverse perspectives from the respective minors, to develop solutions to holistic real-world problems.
Such a clustered minors concept also offers a more universal window of opportunity to students campus-wide, paralleling the spirit and intent of the Honors College structure. That is, Honors College education recognizes that students benefit from shared experiences and interchanges of ideas, transcending disciplines throughout the university. In like manner, a clustered minors concept reinforces the importance of interdisciplinary exposure and the idea of a university education which reflects the needs of the future. If we are to engage more environmentally benign practices in all aspects of life, we need to be reasonably informed citizens; such information must be presented at the university level. Ball State is uniquely suited in that it has a history of greening efforts, a spirit of cooperation and collaboration as reflected in the PEW ACE workshops, and numerous other cooperative educational opportunities presented throughout the years.
For more information or assistance with academic advising for any of
the clustered minors, contact:
Center for Energy Research/Education/Service
e-mail: Dr. James Eflin
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