By: Elizabeth Iwunwa
For over ten years since 2001, students at UPEI have been able to study Environmental Studies as a minor only. However, this year it has now developed into a major. The prerequisite for studying for a Bachelor of Environmental Studies at the university is a high school diploma. Students are advised to take science courses as well. At the UPEI, many of the professors who are teaching courses required for the new program are sessional. This is because of the interdisciplinary aspect of the program. Many of the required courses including psychology and philosophy are in other departments. As a result, many full time professors are not required on staff.
As for what the program expands upon from the minor, students were formerly mandated to take seven courses including two specific environmental studies courses and two science and arts courses respectively. They also had to take a seventh course. The expansion to a full major now allows for students to be able to enroll in a program that is fully focused on the environment.
The Cadre spoke with Dr. Carolyn Peach Brown, the director of the Environmental Studies program and asked what the outlook on future employment opportunities is for students immediately after graduation. She explained, “I guess the strength of the Bachelor of Environmental Studies is because it is interdisciplinary, it gives you flexibility. Maybe in terms of working in the science area or working in a business or working in environmental education or something like that. So it’s flexible and because you have knowledge in a lot of different areas, that opens up other opportunities. So with a B.E.S, someone can for example be a sustainability officer for a town that wants to do things more sustainably. You know, have more recycling plans, sort of things like that, right, and water conservation. Like Charlottetown has a sustainability officer. Someone with a Bachelor of Environmental Studies would have the skill set to work in that context. And of course, some jobs are going to require a Master’s degree or going to college to study something more specific. I do think there will be opportunities for someone with a B.E.S.
Speaking with a student who used to be a chemistry major, she says the timing of the program could not have been better. “It was a couple of weeks into the semester and I realized I didn’t want to continue with Chemistry. I loved all my environmental studies courses and I began to realize that they better reflected my interests as well as my future career goals. I looked into the environmental biology program and wasn’t satisfied. Shortly after, I heard that there was a possibility of the environmental studies minor becoming a major program in the fall. To my excitement and relief, the program became a reality and I declared it as a major. Everything went smoothly for me as I already had a lot of the required credits. I am very impressed with the interdisciplinary nature of this program and appreciate the opportunity to expand my studies. The program offers some customization as well, with three areas of specialization. Each specialization has a slightly different set of required courses so it offers students the chance to tailor the program to their interests. I couldn’t be happier with the program and I think it’s a valuable addition to UPEI”