New Environmental Policy Major to Be Offered at FCLC Next Fall


Published: April 2, 2009

In the fall 2009 semester, Fordham will introduce a new environmental policy major at all of its undergraduate colleges that will incorporate the Jesuit emphasis on values.

Environmental policy will be offered as both a major and a minor, replacing the environmental studies minor that is currently offered, said John van Buren, director of the environmental studies program. The major focuses on the policy dimensions of global environmental problems as well as local New York City urban ecology, he explained.

“[The environmental studies major] is designed to prepare students for the expanding range of environmental policy professions in science, government, law, business, architecture, urban planning, education, communications and media, public relations and non-profit organizations,” according to van Buren’s Web site,

Van Buren highlighted the fact that the program was a “student-driven affair” beginning in 1999 when students first suggested such a program to him. Due to continued efforts since then, the program is ready to be implemented next fall. In the past, approximately 15 students minored in environmental studies each year. These students have gone on to successful graduate studies and careers in environmental areas of philosophy, natural science, medicine, engineering, law, government, business, architecture, urban planning, education, communications and media and not-for-profit public organizations, according to van Buren.

The requirements for the new minor are the same as they were for the original environmental studies minor, van Buren said. The environmental policy major consists of 14 courses, four more than the currently available independent major in environmental studies, he said. The program incorporates a track for natural science majors as well as a track for environmental values and policy that benefits students majoring in business, social sciences and the humanities. He said that, overall, the major entails three areas of course work: natural science, values and policy and an integrative capstone course in the senior year.

Although currently undecided about her major, Alyson Cermak, FCLC ’12, said that she feels having a minor in environmental policy would be a good compliment to any major she ends up choosing.

“This additional major brings variety to the school and offers a unique curriculum,” she said.

In addition, Cermak said she feels that society and government are gradually becoming greener.

She said, “Now could not be a better time to learn the combination of [social and natural] sciences since there is so much interest in renewable energy and greener jobs.”

The Web site states that the Environmental Policy Program’s mission is to provide students with expertise in social values and policies that deal with environmental problems such as global warming. Environmental challenges “have no single root, and their solution will have to come from social policy change and ideas drawn from across the academic spectrum,” according to the Web site. The proposal of the new major program responds to the academic needs of Fordham’s students “who seek to address society’s environmental challenges through social change.”

Christine Vanyo, FCLC ’10 and a natural science major, said that she wanted to minor in the program, but as a rising senior, next fall will be too late to change her minor. “The importance of environmental knowledge is playing more of a role in all these occupations, so it’s really important [for all of us to understand the environment], not just professionals.”

Vanyo said that she wants to become a physician. “The role that the environment plays is paramount” because of its ties with the medical field, she said.

New York University’s (NYU) College of Arts and Science offers Environmental Studies as a major and a minor, while Boston College and Georgetown offer it as a minor.

Jennifer Lane, FCLC ’12, said “Fordham is constantly being compared to NYU, and if NYU can offer [the program], then why shouldn’t Fordham?”

Van Buren said the new program at Fordham will be different from programs at other colleges because of its focus on values and policies instead of just facts. Normally at Catholic and non-Catholic schools, both majors co-exist separately in a cooperative relationship, but Fordham and its Jesuit traditions offer the alternative, he said.

“The goal of our environmental policy major is to train students to understand scientific research data and to use it, along with research in the social sciences and humanities, in environmental policy-making,” he said.

In addition, the new program draws on Fordham’s mission statement which emphasizes “the promotion of justice, the protection of human rights and protection of the environment,” van Buren said. The Web site also explains that students are given the opportunity to “serve the greater good in the areas of ecological literacy, citizenship and stewardship, sustainable development in first- and third-world countries, social and environmental justice and duty to future generations, effecting positive social change in a world governed by complex scientific, economic and sociopolitical interactions and processes.”

The introduction to this new major could not have arrived at a better time, van Buren said, because as the recent presidential election demonstrated, the country has gradually become more concerned with how environmental issues play a role in our economy, energy system and social sectors.

Lane said, “This major is a great help to the environment because it’s a first step to recognizing the importance of the environment.” Lane said that the major also realizes the consequences of our ignorance regarding environmental issues.

Lane said, “This major helps us become more aware of the things we need to change in order to get positive results.”