December 13, 2004
New courses will offer hands-on training
to environmental studies majors
By Jennifer McNulty
Despite the growth of professional opportunities in environmental
science, many students can find it tricky to land that first
job after college.
Many settle for internships as a way to beef up their skills
base. Others opt for graduate school.
That wasn't good enough for environmental studies professor
Daniel Press, who was convinced that the Environmental Studies
Department could do a better job of preparing majors for the
workforce. No one should have to get a master's degree
or do a bunch of internships to get a job, said Press,
now chair of the department.
Press sketched out a lean proposal for a new concentration
in environmental management designed to give students the hands-on
tools they will need in the workplace. He appealed to the Henry
Luce Foundation for funds, and beginning in fall 2005, the first
of six new courses will offer environmental studies majors fieldwork
opportunities in ecology-based and policy-based environmental
science, and communication for environmental managers. More
courses will follow in subsequent years, and internships will
give students a chance to refine their new skills before graduation.
There is always tension between basic and applied research,
and that spills over into teaching, but in environmental studies,
nobody argues with the idea that you should do problem solving,
said Press. These new courses will give students the hands-on
skills they need to go out and solve problems.
Courses in land and watershed management will give students
real-world experience in areas such as controlled
burns, erosion control, wetlands restoration, and water-quality
monitoring. A new geographic information systems (GIS) lab course
will emphasize the needs of clients from county
planning departments and park districts to land trusts.
Policy-based courses will address the needs of business and
industry, from regulatory compliance to the latest proactive
strategies employed by private-sector environmental management
departments to manage energy, materials, and waste. Students
will learn to conduct audits of air emissions, water pollutant
discharges, and hazardous material and waste management, as
well as other skills.
Many of these opportunities require traveling outside the Santa
Cruz area, noted Press. If students want to work with
federal agencies, they have to be in San Francisco or Washington,
D.C., he said. If they want to audit petroleum refineries,
they have to do that in Richmond or Long Beach.
The new field-study courses will be relatively expensive to
offer because they require low instructor-student ratios and
involve travel costs and liability issues, but the department
kept costs down by building on existing curricula and utilizing
existing faculty, staff, and practitioners, said Press. The
Luce Foundation contributed $210,000, and the campus has provided
$60,000 for the five-year pilot program.
In addition, writing and multimedia communication will be the
focus of two courses that will teach students to prepare everything
from a press release to a public presentation enhanced by PowerPoint
visual aids. Small stipends will support students during post-course
It might not sound very glamorous, but this is the stuff
of environmental science, and it has to be done, said
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