Over 100 students entered the new undergraduate degree in Environmental and Sustainability Sciences this fall, 68 of which were new to the University of Montana, making it the second largest degree at WA Franke College. of Forestry and Conservation after fauna. Biology.
“It was a much bigger class than we ever had when it comes to resource conservation and ecosystem science and restoration combined,” said Laurie Yung, Environmental Science and Sustainability Program Director.
“I think this speaks to a pretty broad set of interests and concerns that a lot of students have right now,” said Alan Townsend, Dean of Forestry College.
The new degree in Environmental and Sustainability Sciences is a merger of two existing degrees, Resource Conservation and Ecosystem Science and Restoration. The merger has been in the works for three years and was finally implemented in the fall of 2021.
The two merged degrees are on a moratorium, which means that they are not accepting new students, but will exist until all students who are currently pursuing them graduate. These students can also take their majors at ESS, a choice that Yung said would be fairly straightforward due to the overlap of courses.
While resource conservation was a popular degree, Yung said it mostly attracts students already enrolled at UM. ESS attracts new students.
Townsend has been at UM for about a year, so he entered the new degree when he was already in transition. He said he was happy to see UM develop such a program, after seeing a similar degree at the University of Colorado which is very popular.
“I’m really happy that this is part of our portfolio,” Townsend said.
The new degree tries to maintain an experiential and hands-on approach to learning how to interact with the world, Townsend said. It brings together courses and field programs from across the college, with multiple concentrations on offer.
A few new courses have been created for the diploma. For example, the program set up a field seminar for first year students that includes four days of hands-on learning in the Lubrecht Experimental Forest, which the Forestry College owns. There are also new courses on climate policy and water and sustainability.
“We really want them to understand environmental science from an integrated and interdisciplinary perspective,” Yung said. “We want them to be able to advance sustainability, conservation, restoration and better land management. “
Yung said the new degree is attractive because it takes advantage of Montana’s outdoor classroom and incorporates different knowledge and skills such as water conservation and ecosystem restoration.
Townsend said that because the forestry college is a very skills-oriented school, they are trying to make the ESS degree viable for all kinds of jobs.
“I think because it’s a larger degree, students could be competitive for more jobs,” Yung said. “Students do all kinds of different internships.
It also looks like next year’s incoming ESS class will be even bigger, according to Yung.
“I think it’s exciting, and it also means we have to think very carefully about how we have enough capacity to serve our students,” Yung said.