Environment Major Triples Enrollment

Karyn L. Rogers '95 is a member of Harvard's newest concentration, and she's very happy to be there.

Even though the Environmental Science and Public Policy (ESPP) committee draws professors from several different schools and disciplines, her curriculum problems are always "immediately solved," she says.

Rogers is not the only student applauding the interdisciplinary approach in ESPP. In just one year, the concentration has nearly tripled its number of concentrators.

"They're doing a great job in accommodating what interest there is in the different disciplines," says concentrator Forrest S. Briscoe '95.

The concentration, launched in 1993 as a revolutionary cooperation between the Kennedy School, the Law School and the Faculty of Arts and Sciences (FAS), now has more than 80 students. Originally, it drew only about 30.

"I believe that what draws students to ESPP is the fact that people from other schools--the Kennedy School of Government, the Law School and the Business School--are involved in advising and teaching in this area," says Rotch Professor of Atmospheric Science Michael B. McElroy.

But interdisciplinary is not the only thing ESPP is doing right. Unlike many concentrations at Harvard, the major gives students personal attention and advice.

Rogers says she was awed by the availability of faculty members with a variety of academic backgrounds.

"ESPP students have so many professors at their disposal," she says.

The students joining ESPP come from a number of traditional departments, primarily Government, Biology and Earth and Planetary Sciences.

The ESPP faculty even assists students in lining up job opportunities related to the program that may provide a stimulus for senior thesis ideas.

"We have students working on Capitol Hill on environmental science policy issues, while others have internships at chemical waste disposal companies," McElroy says.

Hot Issue

The concentration is also expanding because of rapidly growing interest in environmental issues, concentrators say.

"ESPP's growth reflects genuine interest in environmental issues and a fear that our generation is entering a world where money and resources will have to be spent to clean up after our lifestyle," Briscoe says.

For students interested in the environment, ESPP provides an organized structure for what used to be a self-planned area of study.

"Many students already planned on studying Environmental Issues as a Special Concentration, but now with ESPP, things are much more organized," Rogers says.

ESPP students are required to take courses in biology, math, chemistry and economics, and can register in courses offered at schools including the Kennedy School of Government, the School of Public Health and the Law School.

The close interaction with other professional schools "provides a framework for students to learn how to cope in all different areas," McElroy says.

Courses and faculty have been adjusted to accommodate the increase in enrollment and maintain faculty-student contact.

The single junior tutorial offered last year has been replaced with five new junior seminars, ranging in topics from conservation biology to environmental justice, says Dudley Professor of Economic Geology Ulrich Petersen, the chair of the committee on ESPP.

"These seminars offer students a multi-disciplinary introduction to current problems of the environment," he said.

The increase in concentrators also stems from an enhanced student awareness about the environment, according to ESPP concentrators.

Students said they appreciated the interdisciplinary nature of the program.

The mission of the ESPP program is to "form rational judgments concerning environmental problems, including both scientific and technical issues, and the economic, ethical and legal dimensions," Petersen says.

The first new concentration since Women's Studies was created in 1986, ESPP was born of the growing faculty sentiment that environmental studies was an important field of study, as well as pressure from both students and the outside world, Petersen says.

"ESPP is demanding in terms of requirements, but students realize that the interdisciplinary nature of the concentration will train them for a number of post-graduate opportunities." McElroy says, adding that the concentration would assist future leaders in professions ranging from law to business.

Rudenstine Triumph

The concentration is also a triumph for Harvard's central administration.

President Neil I., Rudenstine has repeatedly stressed the need for more cooperation between Harvard's historically isolated schools.

With last year's resignation of former Provost Jerry R. Green, the man who was responsible for bringing the University together, the pressure is on to show the vision is a workable one.

The burgeoning environmental major could be the evidence Ruden stine is looking for.

Green, who says he advises some environmental concentrators, considers it one of the triumphs of his two year term as provost.

"It's one of the things I'm very proud of," he says. "I think it's been a tremendous success."Crimson File PhotoJERRY R. GREEN