About the Program
Students considering becoming an environmental studies major or minor should become familiar with what the UW Oshkosh ES program is – and is not. All interdisciplinary programs, from African American studies to women’s studies, draw from various disciplines, which makes the design of interdisciplinary programs more complex than a traditional discipline such as biology or political science. The design of environmental programs is made more complex because it includes the natural sciences as well as the social sciences and humanities, and it can be tied to a pre-professional program such as natural resource management. The result is that there is probably more variety in environmental programs than in any other academic program. Each type of program has its own basic philosophy and goal, and its strengths and limitations.
There are three common ways to shape an undergraduate environmental program. Our fully interdisciplinary program is the third type, but you should know about all three.
- Pre-professional program.
Examples: UW Stevens Point natural resources, UW Oshkosh nursing and education programs.
A pre-professional program focuses on vocational training. It comes after the completion of a liberal arts education in the first two years of college. Emphasis is in-depth disciplinary knowledge and what is called “instrumental rationality”: the ability to use reason to work effectively within an accepted social system. Such programs are usually and gain entry-level jobs.
- Specialized interdisciplinary programs.
Examples: environmental science and environmental policy majors at UW Green Bay and the conservation and environmental science program at UW Milwaukee.
A specialized interdisciplinary program focuses on from several disciplines within a division. For instance, an environmental science program integrates knowledge from biology, geology, chemistry, and geography. An environmental policy program focuses on political science, economics, and sociology. Such programs develop extensive and deep expertise within that branch of knowledge and prepares students for graduate school or entry-level jobs.
- Fully interdisciplinary, liberal art programs
Examples: environmental studies at UW Oshkosh and UW Madison.
A fully interdisciplinary program considers environmental issues within the framework of a broad, interdisciplinary education . It draws on and integrates knowledge from the natural sciences, social sciences, and humanities. Such a program develops the student’s ability to recognize and deal effectively with the full complexity of environmental issues: scientific facts, political theories, economic principles, ethical issues, aesthetic values, etc. In doing so, it develops the student’s
- ability to recognize how ideas, values, and practical problems require knowledge of various disciplines
- ability to integrate knowledge from various disciplines in understanding ideas and values and in solving practical problems
- ability to evaluate differing positions and arguments in a rational and open-minded way
- ability to “think out of the box.”
LIBERAL ARTS PROGRAM
The UW Oshkosh program is also firmly based in the liberal arts. What is “liberal arts”? The UWO College of Letters and Science puts it this way:
"A liberal arts education transcends preparation for specific careers. A liberal arts education prepares students to be responsible citizens who understand and contribute to the changing world in which they live. It exposes students to a broad spectrum of knowledge about the human experience and the natural world, from contemporary science to literature, music and art. It enhances the skills of communication and critical thinking. It challenges students to appreciate their cultural heritage, to be sensitive to diverse traditions and opinions and to value truth. It encourages students to develop a lifelong commitment to inquiry. In sum, a liberal arts education develops the whole person who values knowledge for its own sake as well as for the achievement of specific objectives." < http://www.uwosh.edu/colleges/cols/home.htm>
Placed within the framework and goals of the liberal arts, an environmental studies program
- challenges students with a variety of approaches, genres, and sensitivities to nature, from science to poetry, in order to develop a more rounded perspective on nature and society
- challenges students by studying the way various cultures and historical periods have thought about and interacted with nature and society
- challenges students by exposing them to a variety of environmental and political perspectives, some of which are very different from the dominant ideologies of our time.
These challenges develop what is called “substantive rationality”: the use of reason to critically analyze and assess fundamental ideas, values, and worldviews, including those that are accepted in our society. Such a program enables students to think critically and creatively about complex environmental issues. We feel that such ability is essential to the student’s future career and to the student becoming an informed and responsible citizen able to engage in the complex and ever-changing issues faced by members of a democracy.
With this emphasis on critical thinking, career preparation in such a program is not limited to vocational training. It also aims at developing the ability of students to become creative in their fields, and to become leaders in their fields. In addition, the interdisciplinary nature of the program gives students a greater ability to change fields during their career. Changing field, and even careers, is not uncommon, and environmental careers are rapidly expanding and diversifying. Thus it has been argued that “environmental studies should educate students for careers that don’t yet exist.” We believe a fully interdisciplinary program is the best way to do that.
A CHALLENGING PROGRAM
The environmental studies at UWO is a challenging program in various ways.
- The courses themselves are rigorous, demanding substantial study time and high-level intellectual engagement.
- Students must be able to do well in a broad range of courses, including the natural sciences, social sciences, and humanities.
- Students are challenged to consider a wide diversity of political, philosophical, and cultural perspectives and various approaches to environmental problems.
- Students engage in "substantial rationality," using critical thinking to questions basic assumptions and values as well as employing creative thinking to form their own worldview.
- Students must be able to integrate knowledge from various disciplines, particularly in the interdisciplinary seminars ES 370: Environmental Science, Policy, and Problem Solving and ES 490: Senior Seminar
- In the capstone senior seminar, students are required to complete an honors-type senior thesis.
- Students must take the initiative to follow through with the ES career preparation program, which encourages students to gain practical experience and gives guidance on learning about ES careers and jobs.
A PROGRAM THAT PREPARES YOU FOR A CAREER
We are dedicated to preparing students for a career in which students will be able to have a positive impact on their world.
We have a "Career Preparation Program" that gives students the skills to land the job they want. Essential skills include resume-writing and interviewing.
We encourage and facilitate internships and volunteering, which help students find out what they really want to do and makes them more attractive to employers.