Volume 91, Issue 23

Wednesday, October 8, 1997

glass houses


A new learning environment

By Katie Warfield
Gazette Writer

Faculty at McGill University are hoping to broaden the understanding of environmental issues beyond a scientific level with a new school scheduled to open next fall, but the idea has been met with mixed reactions.

The facility will replace the existing environmental science program which in the past has had a low profile, said Nigel Roulet, the interim director and chair of the executive committee for the new school.

"The McGill school of environment has been under development for about two years and is hoping to broaden interest not only in the typical science field but also incorporate a larger social science aspect," he said.

The MSE program will offer students the opportunity to achieve a three-year Bachelor of Science or Bachelor of Arts in environment studies or the option to major in a related field with a minor in the program.

While McGill is optimistic of the benefits of the program, faculty at other universities offering similar programs remain skeptical.

"I think a school of this nature is a sign of the times and it's good McGill is starting one, but the concept really isn't anything new," said Colin Baird, chair of the environmental science program at Western, adding Western has had a similar program for about five years and many other universities such as York and Waterloo have done the same.

Geoff McVoyle, dean of environmental studies at the University of Waterloo, said he is supportive of McGill's efforts to extend the knowledge of the environment in the minds of students, but he is also skeptical as to whether this broad program will succeed in its attempt to incorporate the inter-faculty studies.

"The possible problems with McGill's new school is that the study program doesn't seem narrow enough to specialize after graduation," McVoyle said. Waterloo offers a more traditional program where students graduate with a specific bachelor degree in environmental studies, he added.

Even though the MSE has not yet officially commenced, McGill hopes to set up international field sites in places such as Barbados, Africa, the Arctic, Panama and Hong Kong, Roulet said.

"The opportunity for students to work on an applied environmental project as part of their curriculum would be done in no place better than at the site of their subject," he added.

Eva Ligeti, Environmental Commissioner of Ontario, said she congratulates the efforts of McGill on their new addition to the environmental curriculum.

"McGill's creation of a specialized school of study in the field of environment will produce a graduating group of learned students prepared to work in a field very pertinent to today's society," she said.

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Copyright The Gazette 1997