Kansas Wesleyan plans environmental studies degree

Kansas First News
Kansas First News

SALINA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Wesleyan University will offer a new major beginning this summer that will combine sciences with the study of social forces involved in environmental issues.

The Environmental Sciences and Community Resilience major will be offer one track that emphasizes natural sciences electives, while the other track will focus on social sciences such as public relations and marketing, The Salina Journal reports (http://bit.ly/Qrasjh ).

The goal is to train students to not only understand the science behind environmental issues but also the factors that sometimes make the issues controversial, according to Wesleyan faculty. It will include classes such as “environmental psychology” and “fundamentals of entrepreneurship.”

Psychology professor Steve Hoekstra, who helped design the program, said many environmental science majors are part of biology or interdisciplinary programs.

“We wanted to approach it in a new way, incorporating the psychology and social forces at work — not just about building windmills, and why, but also why there is resistance,” he said.

Hoekstra noted that public relations skills are needed to establish a recycling program or other green initiatives.

“Someone coming out of this program could work in a community planning office, or on public policy,” he said. “You need enough knowledge of the science to speak intelligently about it and other skills to be an advocate.”

Or, as Andrew Bedrous, assistant professor of sociology says: “Talking about environmentalism is often a turnoff to people who aren’t science-y.”

The Land Institute, an agricultural research facility southeast of Salina, will help with the program. The institute was founded by Wes Jackson, who established the environmental studies program at California State University at Sacramento. Some post-doctorate researchers might teach classes and some Wesleyan students could get internships at the Land Institute, Hoekstra said.

The program will begin this summer with a two-credit-hour class taught by Jackson.

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Information from: The Salina (Kan.) Journal, http://www.salina.com

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