New program opens portal to environment-related majors
By Elizabeth Fritz
How do you help save the environment? Some say they drive a hybrid car, plant more trees or line-dry their clothes. But what if you chose a career to make a difference? What do you major in? Agricultural and biological engineering? Natural resources and environmental science? Forestry?
Photo by Elizabeth Fritz
Amanda Kautz (left) and Jennifer Ransberger are freshmen in the pre-environmental studies program. The program exposes Purdue freshmen to the different environment-related majors the university offers.
To make the choice easier, first-year students can enroll in pre-environmental studies (pre-ES), a program that allows them to explore the many different environmental majors at Purdue and the careers they can lead to. The program also offers students individual attention. Mark Bahler, a sophomore in pre-ES from Wolcott, Ind., said he was worried he would be just another face in the crowd at a big university like Purdue.
"This place and major are a great fit, because it offers me a way to explore what I want," said Bahler. "As a transfer student, I was scared of not being able to get the individual attention that I was used to receiving from a smaller college, but I have been able to find that."
That personal guidance was one of the goals of the program, according to Linda Lee, a professor of environmental chemistry and one of the program's organizers. "Faculty members were motivated to create a program that would reach out to new students and help them meet their short- and long-term goals," said Lee. She described the program as one of the first of its kind in the country. She said it is like a portal where students can sample what is available before selecting the environmental major that will best suit them and their goals.
Hou Man O is one of the students taking advantage of the portal. "I am studying abroad from 7,000 miles away and all I knew is that I wanted to learn about the environment so I could go back home and make a difference," said O, a pre-ES freshman from Macau S.A.R., China. There are urgent water resources and land use issues in China that O said he would like to resolve.
The pre-ES program began in fall 2007 and had five students: Amanda Kautz, Jennifer Ransberger, Chris Swalley, Bahler and O. "My goal is to find the proper curriculum for the pre-ES students," said Paul Schwab, professor of agronomy. "I want them to reach high but find what is right for them; we want them to know what is out there." He meets with students once a week to explore the different environmental majors and careers. He learns what the students want to do and helps them reach their goals.
Pre-ES students took field trips to the Purdue Water Quality Field Stations and the Birck Nanotechnology Center. "The field trips were beneficial because we had a professor explaining the work that they had done and it made me start thinking of what I wanted to do with my future," said Kautz, a freshman from Dana, Ind. "I started thinking, 'What do I want to do with my future - what major is the best guide for this?' At the end of each field trip, I was always a little closer to deciding what that major was," Kautz said.