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The Carletonian

Environmental and Technology Studies major approved

<f this week, Environmental and Technology Studies (fondly known as ENTS) is Carleton’s newest major. The decision came after members of the faculty voted on the proposal at their meeting on Monday, and the news has been greeted with much enthusiasm from the student body. Kai Knutson ’11 was the first student to declare the major – he is “thrilled” at the opportunity and explained that because his class will be the first group of majors, “I believe we will have the chance to shape the curriculum in a significant way.” He added that he “cannot wait to see what results from our . . . collaboration.”
Mark Kanazawa, professor of economics and the director of ENTS, said that the final faculty vote was “overwhelmingly positive.” The new major had to go through the normal procedure of being approved by the Education and Curriculum Committee (ECC) and then by an all-faculty vote, which gives everyone involved time to discuss potential issues. Kanazawa had gone before the ECC twice last year with a similar proposal, but the college had been largely preoccupied with important curricular changes so the time hadn’t seemed right to discuss it. Now, however, he believes that the time is right, especially because the field of environmental studies is growing so rapidly and because most comparable liberal arts colleges already offer a similar major.

ENTS has been around in various forms since at least the early 1980s, first as the Science, Technology and Public Policy program, then as Technology and Policy Studies, and finally in its current form. It has always been a concentration. Kanazawa said that the idea of making it a major “has come up constantly” over the years, as it has consistently been the most popular concentration on campus. Normally around 15 students per year declare the concentration, though that number has been as high as 24. In many respects, then, this decision has been a long time coming. Tsegaye Nega of the ENTS department is “really excited” about the new major. “I can’t say I am surprised because it was something we have been working on for at least the last five years,” he stated.

The new major will come with a name change, though it won’t be too shocking. Environmental and Technology Studies will simply become Environmental Studies, and the “ENTS” acronym will stay. That decision stems from the fact that, according to Kanazawa, “There’s kind of a rich history there that we don’t want to disregard [and the name ENTS] is a link to a long-standing program.” The college is not planning to hire any new faculty members in the near future given current financial conditions, but two full-time positions will be allocated to the major. Nega will remain the sole full-time ENTS faculty member and the other position will be split between George Vrtis (History) and Kim Smith (Political Science), who will continue to teach part-time in their respective departments. Wei-Hsin Fu will also continue to help with ENTS on campus, especially with the GIS program.

A significant issue surrounding the major’s creation has been the fate of the ENTS concentration. On Monday, faculty simultaneously approved adding the new major and suspending the concentration indefinitely. Current juniors who have declared it will be allowed to complete the program, and Kanazawa had made the decision to hold off allowing any declarations of concentration for the class of 2011. Nega explains that the concentration is suspended for two main reasons: “First, we wanted to use the limited faculty resources we have to create a strong and vibrant major, and second, until we determine the specific nature of a possible concentration . . . as it stands now it violates one of the college’s rules of creating a minor.” Kanazawa explains that Carleton doesn’t support “miniature majors,” since all concentrations are supposed to be significantly different from any major department. However, future discussions are planned around how to design a new program and possibly bring the concentration back, which “is honestly going to take a little time.”

In Nega’s mind, the new major will have two components that will “make it very attractive to potential majors” – opportunities for regular off-campus trips and the creation of many unique internships. ENTS plans to add both a biannual international off-campus program and an annual winter break trip like the popular one Nega led last December to learn about conservation and development in Tanzania. Senior Pepsi Margoles says that the program was highly applicable to environmental issues and added that she only wishes the trip “would have been longer.” Now, future off-campus experiences can be. The internship opportunities will be rigorous stints in “federal and state institutions, NGOs, and universities [and will be] tailored to our major’s specific foci,” explains Nega. There are currently four foci, though plans are in the works to add a fifth option (Climate and Energy) in a few years.

The class of 2011 will be the first group of ENTS majors, and Kanazawa, who will remain the director until at least the end of next year, is optimistic that there will be a strong group of them. A handful of students have already switched their major to ENTS since the decision was announced. Nega is simply appreciative that the proposal has passed and is excited to see what comes next. It would not have happened, he says, “without the hard work of ENTS faculty, the incredible support from the administration, and the ECC.”

Kanazawa will hold an information session next Tuesday (May 19th) during common time in Goodsell’s basement classroom to answer any questions about the new major. All interested freshman and sophomores are encouraged to attend.

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