Environmental Major To Be Proposed

In the spring of 2020, a new environmental and sustainability major could potentially be released. The proposed major must go through an official administrative process in order to go into effect.

The proposal includes both Bachelor of the Arts and Bachelor of Science tracks within the major. Students might choose to pursue one or the other, somewhat similarly to the way in which other majors on campus work currently.

Lucas Johnston, professor of Religion and current director of the environmental program, thinks that this new major has the potential to give students a broad-based liberal arts education.

“It is a genuinely interdisciplinary program,” Johnston said.

The major differences between the two tracks are the classes that would be required. Currently, all Environmental Studies and Science minors have to take ENV 201, Global Environmental Issues. This course will be required for both the B.A. and the B.S., and the proposal includes at least one course in Earth Systems (currently cross-listed as an ENV and BIO course, but which will become ENV 220). Meanwhile, the B.S. track would require Physics and Chemistry of the Environment, PHY/CHM 120, among other courses.

The B.S. would also require most of the elective courses to be through departments such as biology, physics and chemistry. However, some humanities and social sciences would also be required. Bachelor of the Arts electives include a certain number of credit hours in the humanities, social sciences and natural sciences as well.

While it is important to understand the science of environmental processes, it is also important to know the history of environmental movements and the social, political and their economic implications. As such, the program will be highly interdisciplinary, not only for the students taking the classes from different departments, but also for the Wake Forest faculty. Johnston has also indicated that there are many benefits from getting an Environmental and Sustainability degree for faculty, employers and the students themselves, which falls in line with Wake Forest’s motto of Pro Humanitate and engaged learning that can be applied to the broader community.

“It trains students to really engage with ethical reasoning and gives the knowledge to support the greater good,” Johnston said.

In the fall semester of 2019, the proposal has to go through the Committee of Academic Planning. If it gets approved there, then the Wake Forest faculty has to vote on the creation of the major in the spring.

If voted on by the faculty, an announcement will be made stating that the Environmental and Sustainability major can go into effect. If the proposal does pass, then the first class that could declare this major is the class of 2021. As such, it may be feasible for current freshman and sophomores to graduate from Wake Forest with this major as a degree.

Wake Forest currently offers both  Environmental Studies and Environmental Science minors for students already interested in getting started on this curriculum.