Keene State Creates New Environmental Studies Department
KEENE, N.H., 7/20/09 - Keene State College has created a new department of Environmental Studies. The courses in this interdisciplinary program study how people interact with the environment, incorporating the natural world as well as social and political systems. Students will acquire the ability to evaluate, analyze, and synthesize complex information relating to environmental issues, and graduate with skills that will help them succeed in careers as diverse as environmental consulting, policy making, field research, and staff positions assisting organizations in meeting goals related to sustainability.
“The faculty of Keene State College recognized the critical importance of Environmental Studies when it established the major in 1979,” said Gordon Leversee, dean of the School of Sciences and Social Sciences. “Changing environmental challenges and opportunities have prompted this move from a multi-departmental model to a core faculty model, and the new department represents Keene State’s renewed commitment to address the environmental challenges we face.”
Emerging green technologies and concerns about climate change are hot topics in the news lately, but sustainability and environmental awareness have been a way of life at Keene State College for some time now.
A faculty-led recycling program was created in the 1970s, and the establishment of the President’s Council for a Sustainable Future (PCSF) in 1996 pushed campus operations to become more sustainable: Many departments use electric cars to get around campus; few chemicals are used to maintain the beautiful lawns, arboretum, and gardens on the 170-acre grounds; and in winter alternative pre-treatments minimize salt and sand use on walkways and parking lots. KSC has the only LEED building in Cheshire County (the Pondside III residence is LEED Silver), and campus construction projects seek managers with experience in high-performance buildings, C&D; waste/recycling management, and indoor air quality management protocol.
As this culture of environmental awareness grew at Keene State over the years, so did the number of courses focusing on sustainability. Last year a new major, SPEDI (Sustainable Product Design and Innovation) was launched, expanding on existing courses in the Architecture and Safety Studies programs that have long featured sustainable building design courses, management courses grounded in sustainability principles, and safety studies courses that look for ways to reduce worker hazards. Often students in these courses have used the campus operations as case studies, including a management project to look at transportation numbers, the microbial content of campus compost, and water testing.
The new Environmental Studies program will continue to employ small group, hands-on projects to address “real world” environmental problems such as air pollution caused by diesel exhaust and protecting natural resources in the local community. A strong community/service learning connection is built into the new curriculum. For example, students from environmental studies recently helped the City of Keene develop a natural resources inventory for a local park and natural area and performed invasive species evaluations at Pisgah State Park in Chesterfield, N.H. Students have also assisted AVEO (Ashuelot Valley Environmental Observatory) in performing culvert inventories and vernal pool assessments. Students will participate in an ongoing grant-funded project with the Monadnock Biodiesel Collaborative that is studying the effects of diesel and biodiesel emissions on human lungs and evaluating the impact of different biodiesel blends and feedstocks on environmental and occupational exposures.
Four core faculty have been assigned to the new department:
Dr. Timothy Allen teaches the popular “Energy and the Environment” course, and conducts studies of trace element mineralogy and groundwater resources.
Dr. Renate Gebauer is an ecologist with special expertise in plant-soil-water relationships. Her collaborative relationships include the Hubbard Brook Experimental Forest Ecosystem Study in the White Mountains.
Dr. Nora Traviss has expertise in environmental health and safety and is conducting a long-term study on human exposure to diesel exhaust particulates in collaboration with Dartmouth College.
Dr. William Fleeger is joining the Keene State faculty this fall and brings his considerable experience in environmental policy studies, including serving as program director of the Regional Ecosystem Applied Learning Corps at Southern Oregon University. The Corps worked with over 20 land management agencies and community partners on watershed and land management issues, including the Spotted Owl project.
For more information, contact Gordon Leversee at 603-358-2544.