The Capstone seminar of the Environmental Minors Program is a cross disciplinary team-taught course that provides students and faculty with a transformative educational experience. It is designed to facilitate and combine hands-on research projects, cross-disciplinary communication and teamwork, and opportunities for community service learning with intensive theoretical and methodological training, analysis and application. This capstone experience recognizes that environmental problems are complex and multifaceted, and that no single discipline or perspective can provide a society with the knowledge and tools that are necessary to understand, design and implement solutions to environmental problems. Thus, the seminar brings together students from each of the three different minor programs for a culminating experience.
Our seminar design reflects the reality that contemporary environmental research and decision-making requires sustained cross-disciplinary communication and teamwork. For this reason the course is team-taught by professors from different disciplines who will work together in the classroom for every session. While an occasional guest speaker might make an appearance, the substance of the course is generated by the collaborative conversation between the faculty in the classroom and students. The instructors of each course will design the course around a particular environmental topic. To facilitate intensive projects it is capped at 16 students.
Integrates perspectives from three environment programs: Environmental Management, Environmental Science and Environmental Studies. The course is team taught using a case-study approach to environmental issues, emphasizing teamwork and student initiative. Topics vary. Prerequisites: Completion of 15 hours in declared environment minor or permission of instructor. Students wishing to complete more than one of the Environment minors (Environmental Studies, Environmental Science, Environmental Management) may receive dual credit for ENVT 400.
Course topic: Mountaintop Removal in Appalachia
This course investigates various environmental and social impacts of mountaintop removal. By bringing together expertise from multiple disciplines, students are encouraged to consider how, and to what extent, mountaintop removal causes environmental degradation, impacts culture and beliefs, and affects the economy of the region. As a class, students begin by determining the wide-ranging causes and impacts of mountaintop removal in Appalachia. Then, students form small groups based on interest and background and complete more research on an aspect of the problem and formulate possible solutions. These groups then integrate their findings into a final presentation and research paper.
Course topic: What is low energy input sustainable agriculture, and can it feed the planet?
This course examines low energy input agriculture, how people are pursuing it, the major threats or roadblocks in expanding this type of farming, and movements to increase the number of people invested in making it happen. This course will focus on three basic discussion points:
This course involves readings, a variety of project assignments (written and presentation forms), and an experiential component involving 25 hours of work on local farms presently selling at local farmers markets. Group projects examining particular types of low energy, low input farming will serve as the focus of student research activity. At the conclusion of the semester, students will present their findings in a public forum.
Course topic: Water in the Valley
'Water in the Valley' will integrate social and biological aspects of water resource issues in the Shenandoah Valley. Conflicts between societal needs and biological concerns often arise over this vital resource. This class will investigate the foundation for such conflicts by exploring societal perspectives of human uses of water and resulting biological conditions that effect human health and ecosystem functions. Special emphasis will be placed on conservation and restoration opportunities that can elevate such conflicts and develop more sustainable options for water use in the future.
Course topic: Food for Thought: Food, Farming and Culture from Local to Global
Course topic: Feeding the Planet
This seminar focused on the global and local food systems that feed the planet. Beginning with a global perspective, this course investigated various environmental impacts and implications of intensive agriculture on the planet. By bringing together expertise from multiple disciplines, students were encouraged to consider how and to what extent agriculture:
As a class, students began by determining the wide-ranging environmental and cultural impacts of global food systems. Then, students formed small groups based on interest and background in order to complete more research on a local aspect of the problem as well as formulate possible solutions. These groups integrated their findings into a final presentation and research paper.
Course topic: Mountaintop Removal in Appalachia
This course investigated various environmental impacts of mountaintop removal. By bringing together expertise from multiple disciplines, students were encouraged to consider how mountaintop removal causes environmental degradation, impacts culture and beliefs, and affects the economy of the region. As a class, students began by determining the wide-ranging causes and impacts of mountaintop removal in Appalachia. Then, students formed small groups based on interest and background in order to complete more research on one aspect of the problem as well as formulate possible solutions. These groups then integrated their findings into a final presentation and research paper.
Course topic: Biofuels and the Global Food Supply