Section: Opinion

Excitement for the future of ENVS!

This is a great time for Kenyon to have started a new environmental studies (ENVS) major. President Decatur just signed the American College & University Presidents’ Climate Commitment, we have developed an Office of Green Initiatives, the Brown Family Environmental Center just celebrated its 20th anniversary last year, the Philander Chase Conservancy recently opened the Kokosing Nature Preserve with a green cemetery and a prairie restoration project, the Kenyon Farm now has a full-time manager and we are starting to install solar panels on select College buildings. Kenyon has environmental resources that most colleges would envy. The momentum is high; both existing and prospective students are anxious for an environmental studies major at Kenyon.

That is why a group of faculty spent last year designing a curriculum that will prepare students to be leaders in this important field, while leveraging the unique strengths and personality of Kenyon. We want our students to understand the interplay between humans — together with their social and cultural institutions — and the physical, chemical and biological processes of the natural world. We want them to approach complex problems from an analytical perspective and apply logic, scientific principles and quantitative tools to their solutions. We want them to understand the social, historical, philosophical, spiritual and literary traditions that define the relationships between humans and their environment. And we want them to persuasively communicate ideas and logical arguments both orally and in writing as active participants in the environmental problem-solving process. We will challenge our students in the classroom to help them meet their potential as environmentalists and leaders.

We also know that environmental students are generally active in their communities, so we are working with the Kenyon green centers  to provide a wide variety of hands-on experiences for our students. They are as enthused as we are about increasing their interaction with our students. We couldn’t be more excited to move from planning to implementing the major and we can’t wait for students to be able to formally declare ENVS as their major in the fall. That’s when the real fun begins!

Robert Alexander is a visiting Professor of Economics and Environmental Studies. Contact him at


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