Program Description

A. Overview

The Bachelor of Arts Major in Environmental & Sustainability Studies (ENS) can be obtained as a stand-alone degree or as an additional major with any other degree. Students will obtain a basic understanding of natural and physical science content relevant to a broad range of environmental and sustainability topics.

Environmental & Sustainability Studies is a relatively new academic program. ENS as an academic discipline reflects the interdependence and relationships among the three “pillars” of sustainability: economics, environment, and society. While sustainability subjects are appropriate within disciplinary degrees there is a significant need for students to obtain a deep understanding of this subject and the ramifications of unsustainable activities towards the future of humanity and the ecosystems of the earth. Flexibility is one of the more appealing attributes of the ENS degree. The ENS B.A. is designed to give students an opportunity to select thematic clusters of courses specific to their own career aspirations. This flexibility provides ENS graduates with the expertise in sustainability and broad-based knowledge of environmental issues necessary to pursue careers in which they have already built a foundation of understanding through their chosen coursework. 

ENS students will obtain the fundamental knowledge required to understand the relationships that exist between the global economy, societal problems and needs, and the natural world.

B. Importance of ENS Program

It has become clear that the world’s resources cannot continue to be utilized in a manner that leads to their depletion and the consequent environmental degradation and ecosystem losses. Future college graduates must be able to implement sustainable development, specifically, and understand sustainability in its broadest meaning, to be able to create a lasting future in a world with less abundant resources. In doing so, they will become the new leaders of their generation in achieving success while limiting the impacts of society on the carrying-capacity of the Earth. Sustainability is not a separate discipline of academic endeavor but a means of using fundamental academic environmental concepts to solve societal environmental, and by extension, human and economic problems. Sustainability creates and emphasizes inter-relationships among typically separate fields and departments of environmental studies, in recognition that appropriate solutions to environmental problems require the erasure of divisional boundaries. The new Environmental & Sustainability Studies Bachelor of Arts Degree represents the logical, and essential, evolution from department-specific studies, through cross-disciplinary studies, to one that emphasizes sustainability within the context of fundamental environmental concepts. The ENS Program is among the first in the nation to provide a transdisciplinary, holistic approach to understanding, and making changes in, the relationship between humans and their environment.

C.  Program Advisory Board

The ENS B.A. Program was created through the combined efforts of the ENS Advisory Board members within the College of Arts & Sciences and in consultation with faculty and staff throughout the University. The Advisory Board developed the ENS B.A. from summer 2010 until it was approved in Dec. 2012. The Advisory Board was comprised of an Executive Committee and other ENS participants at UK. The Advisory Board members represent all the A&S College Departments in which relevant ENS elective courses are currently being taught. It is currently comprised of faculty members with academic appointments at UK (the Executive Committee) and two UK employees (Tyndall and Tedder). The Advisory Board will steadily evolve over time to include faculty representatives from other environmental programs, administrative officials, student representative from environmental clubs and organizations, and other participants in the ENS Program.

D. Student Skills Development

Active learning is critical within the ENS curriculum. As such, various opportunities are available for students to utilize: independent research for the assignments in the Core courses, various engagement activities (on and off campus), through the optional Independent Study course, ENS 395, and the required Capstone course, ENS 400. Environmental subjects and issues are ideally suited to be taught by active learning techniques. However, these must be examined critically, particularly with regard to how the issues are portrayed in popular publications and the news media. Thus, a primary outcome of the program will be to produce graduates with the ability to think critically and independently.

Effective communication is an important skill the students will be taught during their coursework, specifically in ENG 425 and PHI 336. The best of the students’ written documents and presentations will be incorporated into the Program Website to educate the public about existing and emerging environmental issues. The abilities to think critically and to communicate effectively will require a rigorous academic foundation. The factual basis for the social, scientific, economic, and policy issues facing society today will be provided through ENS 201 and ENS 202. Greater expertise in subjects of the students’ own interest will be provided by the courses listed in the three areas of expertise following the “5:2:1 Rule”.

Student Learning Outcomes:

1.     Development and utilization of critical thinking skills

2.     Ability to work independently in the creation of new knowledge 

3.     Demonstration of excellence in communication, with an emphasis on writing

4.     Factual academic knowledge in a broad range of environmental issues

5.     Expertise in a specific area of environmental and sustainability studies

6.     Understanding sustainability as the means to a healthy, productive, equitable quality of life for future generations. 

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