Proposed Program: Bachelor of Arts in Environmental Geoscience

Challenge to the New Program Proposal
Author: Department of Geography and Environmental Studies

Click here for an MSWord version of this challenge to the proposal.

 TO:                Jean Hemzacek, Chair

                        College of Arts and Sciences Academic Affairs Committee


                        Kate Forhan, Dean

                        College of Arts and Sciences


                        Roger Gilman, Associate Dean

                        College of Arts and Sciences


                        Laura Sanders, Program Head

                        Department of Chemistry, Earth Science and Physics


                        Pratibha Varma-Nelson, Chair

                        Department of Chemistry, Earth Science and Physics


FROM:           Diane Stehman, Chair

                        Department of Economics Geography and Environmental Studies


DATE:            February 23, 2005


RE:                 Challenge to the ESCI’s proposed Environmental Geoscience major


Geography and Environmental Studies challenges the ESCI proposed New Program – Bachelor of Arts Degree in Environmental Geosciences.  This challenge is based on program duplication, lack of necessary breadth, and failure to meet the goals of the program.


Ø     Program Duplication.  The proposed program duplicates the current ESCI major and overlaps with the Environmental Studies major in Geography and Environmental Studies.


The proposed B.A. differs from the current ESCI B.S. mainly by replacing 25 hours in chemistry, math, and physics with either 5 hours of chemistry or 6 hours of biology and with ESCI electives being available from their current list of elective courses within the department.  ESCI claims that no new courses are necessary for this program.


The ESCI proposal states that some of their students would like to study the environment more broadly, but still with a solid geological grounding.  Students can already do this by taking an Environmental Studies major in the Department of Geography and Environmental Studies.  Environmental Studies students who are especially interested in geology are encouraged to take a minor in ESCI and – with advisement – to satisfy some of the electives with other courses from the ESCI department.  A review of the transcripts of Environmental Studies majors shows that most have declared a science minor.  The transcripts also show that Environmental Studies students are taking science courses beyond their General Education requirements in departments other than their declared minor.


Ø     Program lacks necessary breadth. The ESCI proposal requires 38 hours of ESCI courses and only one course from a science department outside of ESCI.  This does not provide the necessary breadth students will need to prepare them for the potential careers (business, law, journalism, politics, land planning and development, anthropology, environmental medicine, library and information science, applied information technology, and international relations) referred to by the ESCI proposal. 


To give students’ knowledge of the environment and working approaches to solutions of environmental problems, a multidisciplinary, problem-oriented major is needed.  This is the philosophy of the Environmental Studies major in the Department of Geography and Environmental Studies and appears to be the philosophy of environmental programs at other universities.  This can be summed up in the diagram below.



Environmental issues are generally very complex; they require an understanding of both the natural sciences and human/social environments.  Local and international political structures, demographic forces, philosophies, cultures, and economic issues must be addressed along with the biological, atmospheric and geological ones.  It is not possible to adequately prepare students to address complex issues – such as land use, water quality, waste disposal, pollution, economic growth, population pressure, resource depletion, and urbanization – from a predominantly geological perspective.  The multidisciplinary Environmental Studies major provides an appropriate background for examining such complex issues.


Ø     Program does not meet the stated goals.


The proposal states that this major will serve students who want to study Earth Science but “want to obtain a more liberal education in Geosciences with an emphasis on environmental issues.”  This cannot be accomplished within a program that relies only on existing ESCI courses with just one or two required courses outside of ESCI.  All environmental programs that we have examined, including the programs listed in the ESCI proposal, include many courses outside of ESCI to provide the student with the necessary tools to examine environmental issues.


In several of the performance criteria it is stated that a “Scientific paper OR paper/project applying principles of Environmental Geosciences to other discipline” is required as proof of stated goals.  The proposal suggests that a single 300-level major course will suffice.  A student will be ill-equipped to write a meaningful scientific paper without a thorough background developed through a coherent group of courses from the other discipline, as well as the proper grounding in mathematics and other sciences.


The proposed program will not be able to meet the performance criteria with a community service project without a multidisciplinary background.  Without courses in a non-science discipline, students will be unable to apply geologic principles to successfully complete a community service project.


Goal 3 of the proposal states that “Students will obtain the knowledge and skills needed for good citizenship – especially the ability to make informed decisions about land-use, resources and the environment and to continue life-long learning about environmental geoscience-based issues.”  Without taking any social science courses beyond General Education requirements, students will not be able to make informed decisions about land-use, the use of resources and the environment.


Statement 5 of the proposal claims that the proposed program will prepare students for multiple careers and life-long learning.  The only evidence presented to support this claim is a quote about a program in Geology which includes cognate courses in math, chemistry, and physics, and not an environmental Geoscience curriculum that omits these.  The proposal provides no evidence that the proposed degree will prepare students for multiple careers or life-long learning. 


It is not possible for the ESCI program to adequately address the large environmental issues claimed with just currently offered courses- or without a shift of mission which will duplicate an important part of what Geography and Environmental Studies already provides.  The marriage between Environmental Studies and Geography has worked well.  Geography is uniquely positioned between the natural and social sciences and, like Environmental Studies, it necessarily integrates many fields.  Where Environmental Studies focuses on solving complex environmental problems, geography attempts to understand patterns of spatial distribution.  Questions such as “where?,” “why there,” “where next?” and “where should …?” require synthesis of parts of many disciplines from the social and natural sciences.  These questions are the domain of geography, and the geographers’ approach is invaluable to Environmental Studies.  Both naturally and by design, many “Geography” courses also appeal to “Environmental Studies” students, and vice-versa; indeed, the department’s combined M.A. (Geography and Environmental Studies) with 31 active students, is testament to the successful marriage.   Attached is a partial list that shows that our students are successfully working in diverse environmental careers.


The faculty of Geography and Environmental Studies would like to work more closely with ESCI to improve students’ preparedness for environmental careers.  A second environmental B.A. is not the best way to utilize scarce university resources.

Northeastern Illinois University


Geography and Environmental Studies


Sampling of Students and Alumni Working in an Environmental Field

March 10, 2003 – Revised February 21, 2005


Public Open Space and Natural Resource Agencies


            Elected Leadership

                        Cary Park District (Illinois)

                                    Phil Stanko, Board member, former president


            Planning and Management


Cook County Forest Preserve District (Illinois)

                                    Chet Ryndak, Conservation Supervisor          


Kane County Forest Preserve District (Illinois)

                                    Drew Ullberg, Director of Planning

                                    John DiFulvio, Area Manager


Lake County Forest Preserve District (Illinois)

                                    James Anderson, Natural Resource Manager


McHenry County Conservation District (Illinois)

                                    Ed Collins, Natural Resources Manager

                                    Pat Howard, Restoration Technician

                                    Jackie Batson, Geographic Information Systems (GIS) Specialist


Minnesota Department of Natural Resources

                                    Michael Martinez, Development and Acquisition Specialist


            Will County Forest Preserve District (Illinois)

                                    Marcella DeMauro, Director of Planning and Operations


            Village of Glenview

                                    Robyn Flakne, Natural Resource Manager


            Interpretation and Education


            Cook County Forest Preserve District (Illinois)

                                    Irene Flebbe, Interpretive Naturalist, Sand Ridge Nature Center

Nancy Halliday, Interpretive Naturalist, River Trail Nature Center   (retired)

 Michelle Goldberg Motlowitz, Interpretive Naturalist, River Trail                        Nature Center


            DuPage County Forest Preserve District (Illinois)

                                    Margie Martinson, Interpretive Naturalist


            McHenry County Conservation District (Illinois)

                                    Patricia Runkels Sebastion, Education Services


            U. S. National Park Service, Great Falls Interpretive Center, WDC

                                    Kathleen Kelly, Interpretive Naturalist




Governmental Environmental Regulatory and Planning Agencies


            City of Chicago

                        Ray Carrell, Director of Environment, O’Hare Airport         

                        Nicole Kamins, Department of Environment

                        John Raffetto, Garfield Park Conservatory


Northeastern Illinois Planning Commission

                        David Clark, Research Department

                        Libby Hill, Associate Planner

                        Irene Hogstrom, Associate Planner


            U. S. Department of Commerce

                        Adam Gibson, GIS Specialist, Federal Bureau of Fire Arms


            U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Region V

                        George Azevedo, Water Program

Pauline Gambill, Public Affairs

                        Mick Hans, Media Relations

                        Megan Gavin, Environmental Education Specialist

Michael Gentleman, Water Resources

                        George Opek, Environmental Scientist

                        Karen Rodriguez

                        Dolly Tong

Holiday Wirick

                        Jane Lilienfeld-Jones, Inspector General


            U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Chicago Field Office

                        Kris Lah, Endangered Species Coordinator

                        Chivia Horton




Private Environmental, Consulting. Technology, and Service Firms


            Earth Tech (Environmental Consulting)

                        Teri Radke, Ecologist


Geoanalytics (Geographics Information Systems, etc.)

                        Peter Thumb, President


            Huff and Huff, LaGrange, IL (environmental consultants)

                        James Novak, Senior Environmental Scientist


Kowalenko & Bilotti, Inc. (Management, Engineering, and Environmental            


            Tony Bilotti, Vice President and Technical Services Director

            Carolyn Cullen, Researcher



Natural Areas Ecosystem Management

            Randy Stowe, President

            Karen Downing Stowe, Vice President


Paramatrix, environmental consulting firm, Seattle

            Pat Togher, Researcher


Red Buffalo Nursery

            Jack Kaskel, Owner


Scientific Control Laboratories, Chicago

            Dan Bell


Wight Consulting

            Paul Jahn, GIS/FieldCoordinator


Witness Tree Native Landscapes

            Mary Zaander, Co-Owner


Not-for Profit Environmentally Related Organizations


            Camp Maquoketa, Frankfort, IL

                        Tina Riley, Guest Services Manager


Chicago Botanic Garden

                        Susanne Masi, Research Botanist

                        Joan O’Shaughnessy, Ecologist


            Quaker Earthcare Witness (Headquarters in Burlington, VT)                        

                        Alice Howenstine, Member of Steering Committee


            Friends of the Chicago River

                        Chris Parson, Manager of Education and Stewardship Programs


McHenry County Defenders (Illinois) (“Citizens Working for a Healthy                                            Environment”)

            Alice Howenstine, Member of Board of Directors and Manager

                        of  McHenry Recycling Center (volunteer)

            Barbara Day, Board Member


National Geographic Society, Washington, D.C.

            Janice Wolf, Senior Researcher, National Geographic Channels



Nature Conservancy (Illinois Chapter)

            Laurel Ross, Director of Conservation Programs


Peggy Notebart Nature Museum

            Cynthia Vasquez, Supervisor of Volunteer Programs


Prairie Club, (Chicago)

            Lorry Davies, Environmental Consultant and former Executive Director


Land Conservancy of McHenry County

                        Linda Balek, Land Protection Specialist




            Motorola Corporation

                        Kregg Salvino, Environmental Safety and Health Manager


            Weyerhaeuser Lumber

                        David Wing, Recycling Education


            Standard Parking Corporation, Chicago

                        James A. Wilhelm, President and CEO




            Joliet Junior College (Illinois)

                        John Schroeder, Chairman, Geography Department


            North Side College Prep High School, Chicago

                        Jack Giles, Chairman, Dept. of Social Studies


Oakton Community College (Illinois)

                        David Rodgers, Faculty, Environmental Science


            Northeastern Illinois University

                        Libby Hill, adjunct faculty




International Resource Development


            Mexican Office of  Ecology, Mexico City

                        David Salazar, Associate


            Toledo Institute for Development and the Environment (TIDE),

                                    Punta Gorda, Belize

                        Wil Maheia, Executive Director        




Published Authors of Environmentally Related Books


Richard Carter.  Cabin Fever, Dialogues with Nature.  St. Paul, MN: Galde Press.



            Andrea Jauck (with Larry Points).  Assateague, Island of the Wild Ponies.  New

                                                            York: Macmillan. 1993.         


            ___________.   Barrier Island Birds.  Mariposa, CA: Sierra Press.  2000.


            Libby Hill.  The Chicago River: A Natural and Unnatural History, Lake Claremont

                   Press, August 2000.


Susanne Masi (with Thomas M.Antonio).  The Sunflower Family in the Upper

                        Midwest.  Indianapolis: Indiana Academy of Science.  2001.


Nancy Halliday, artist for Mammals of North America  (Princeton Field Guides)

        by Roland W. Kays and Don E. Wilson, Princeton: Princeton University

        Press. 2002.

* Almost all of these students graduated with a degree in Geography, Environmental Studies or an M.A. in G&ES.  A few are current students nearing completion.  Several did not complete their degrees, but associate themselves with the department anyway.

Department of Earth Science

Department of Geography and Environmental Studies

Northeastern Illinois University

© 2005 Earth Science Department, Northeastern Illinois University.

Last updated  April 15, 2005.