University of Portland Bulletin 2021-2022

Environmental Studies

Steven A. Kolmes, Ph.D., chair

Christine Weilhoefer, Ph.D., B.S. track director

Faculty: Abel, Barnes, Carpenter, Hill, Kolmes, Martin, Oculi, Prestholdt, Riverman, Sweeney, Weiger, Weilhoefer, Woodard

We live in an era of climate change, concerns about environmental toxins, and diminishing forests and fisheries. We also live in an era of alternate energy innovations, vibrant public discourse, and a new ethos of sustainability. The environmental studies department prepares B.A. majors in environmental ethics and policy and B.S. majors in environmental science to serve as leaders in this 21st century of challenges and opportunities. The department gives all its majors, regardless of the track they pursue, an understanding of the scientific implications of environmental concerns, and the theological, philosophical, economic, and political issues at the heart of this challenge. The department is also dedicated to creative interaction with other schools of the University, such as the environmental engineering track in the civil engineering degree program, and the sustainable entrepreneurship offerings in the Pamplin School of Business Administration. Taken together, this encourages a rich and constructive conversation on our campus that centers on the place of humankind and human activities in an environmentally sustainable future.

The goal of the environmental studies department program is to graduate students who have gained enough insight into the present environmental situation, and the interconnected elements involved in discerning a path towards sustainability, to provide leadership as environmental professionals. As Oregon’s Catholic university, the University of Portland is perfectly situated as a place where the discussion of moral and ethical dimensions of environmental decisions is part of normal discourse.

B.A. and B.S. majors are brought together several times in the course of their undergraduate work: first in ENV 200 which introduces students to the major, in various environmental studies courses, laboratories, field trips, and in a senior capstone seminar which involves case studies and team-approach problem-solving in regional environmental issues.

Minors are available in environmental science and in environmental policy.

Learning Outcomes for Environmental Studies Majors

Environmental ethics and policy and environmental science graduates of the University of Portland will be able to:

  1. Work effectively in an interdisciplinary setting.
    1. Demonstrate the ability to work in a group to engage in problems from multiple interdisciplinary perspectives.
    2. Integrate scientific, ethical, theological, and policy perspectives in work in the environmental arena.
    3. Produce a research paper and presentation as part of an interdisciplinary team.
    4. B.S. students will be able to:
      1. Recognize when ethical issues are at play in environmental research and policy.
      2. Recognize the need for ethical thinking.
      3. Recognize the implications of their scientific work for both ethics and policy.
    5. B.A. students will be able to:
      1. Understand what research is relevant to their projects.
      2. Understand and interpret data that is relevant to their projects.
      3. Integrate scientific data into their ethical and policy analysis.
  2. Demonstrate the capacity of systems thinking.
    1. Recognize environmental problems as complex systems with many interacting factors.
    2. Take a holistic rather than a reductionistic approach to engaging in environmental problems.
  3. Effectively communicate about environmental issues with both professional audiences and in conversation with the general public.
    1. Write for both peers in one's professional area and for the general public.
    2. Present relevant environmental information to neighborhood associations and other non-professional audiences.
    3. Engage in the art of dialogue on environmental issues empathically engaging with people of differing perspectives and life experiences.
    4. B.S. students will be able to recognize environmental issues and the stories we tell about them as historically and politically situated.
    5. B.A. students will be able to describe environmental issues and the stories we tell about them as historically and politically situated.
All Environmental Science graduates of the University of Portland will also be able to:
  1. Articulate a program of scientific research that is illuminating to ethical and policy problems.
    1. Recognize the ethical and policy dimensions of the systems on which one is working.
    2. Engage with scientists and policy makers in a way that non-scientists can understand.
  2. Use the scientific method to examine environmental problems.
    1. Form a testable hypothesis.
    2. Collect data in light of a hypothesis.
    3. Interpret data in light of a hypothesis.
    4. Demonstrate an understanding of what needs to be done next in light of the data.

All Environmental Ethics and Policy graduates of the University of Portland will also be able to:

  1. Demonstrate a high level of facility with the tools of ethical discernment.
    1. Provide an ethical analysis of an environmental situation/problem.
    2. Provide an ethical analysis of proposed environmental policy.
    3. Promote the development of ethical responsibility in their communities.
  2. Write a scientifically and ethically informed policy analysis or policy proposal.
    1. Integrate scientific data to support a policy analysis or proposal.
    2. Integrate ethical considerations into a policy analysis or proposal.
    3. Demonstrate an understanding of the differences between ethical analysis and policy analysis.

Capstone Experience

It is required that students earning a B.A. or B.S. degree in environmental studies participate in an environmentally-oriented capstone experience during the spring semester of the calendar year in which they graduate. This capstone experience provides students with an opportunity to synthesize their diverse course material into a cohesive and integrated body of knowledge. The capstone experience in environmental studies is achieved through the ENV 400— Integrating Seminar in Environmental Studies course. Students research a current environmental issue in the Pacific Northwest, working on sub-tasks as interdisciplinary teams, each of which includes both ethics/policy and science majors. Their findings, conclusions and recommendations are presented on Founders Day near the end of the spring semester.