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Spring 2008 - New program

Destination Purdue > Spring 2008 - New program

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?

Amanda Kautz and Jennifer Ransberger

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.