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A PATH TO SAVING THE EARTH BEGINS INSIDE THE CLASSROOM

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4/29/2009 —

With the passing of Earth Day, and the realization among earth’s citizens that an environmentally-friendly lifestyle is, indeed, the only way to save the planet in peril, Penn State Brandywine unveiled a new academic minor that one professor says is a move “on a path to create scientifically-literate citizenry that respects and appreciates the environment.”

What is this new “green minor?” It’s called the Environmental Inquiry (ENVI) minor, and it is an 18-credit, intercollegiate minor designed to fit with all University majors. Students must have previously completed nine general education credits while at Penn State in order to pursue the minor.

Associate Professor of Earth & Mineral Sciences Laura Guertin, the science aficionado behind the quote above, will serve as the campus coordinator for the minor. She pointed out that many of the courses satisfy the requirements for the minor beyond just the sciences, such as anthropology, English, philosophy, and American Studies. And there’s more of that to come. Guertin encouraged faculty teaching a course that features an added “environmental theme or twist,” to petition for that course to count toward completion of the minor, too.

“We are the only Penn State campus outside of University Park to offer this minor,” Guertin said, “and with the passion today’s students have for the earth and environmental issues, I am sure this program will be a success.”

Penn State’s Environmental Inquiry minor was created to enrich all areas of academic study with an essential, cross-disciplinary understanding of crucial environmental issues and how they are being framed and tackled from both scientific and policy perspectives.  

The minor will introduce students to different ways of thinking about and studying the environment. It will give students a greater appreciation for the environment, a broader understanding of environmental issues and problems, and insight into alternative methods of inquiry.

The minor permits students to explore environmental interests, provides additional perspectives, and uses a participatory approach and interactive learning style.

On why the major is important, Guertin wrote to the campus community, “Human impact on the environment is an increasingly relevant issue as populations grow, resources are consumed, and businesses and industries become ever more productive. Addressing this issue is controversial and involves complex debates that engage professionals from all fields. Now, more than ever, concerned groups seek individuals knowledgeable about these important issues with experience communicating with people in professions outside of their own.”

The minor will expose students to both the scientific background they need to understand environmental issues as well as the social science needed to promote these issues successfully.

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