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New Majors at Fordham Put Emphasis on the Environment

Fordham University will offer two new majors to students in the 2009-2010 academic year. Environmental Science and Environmental Policy will be available to students at Fordham College at Rose Hill (FCRH) and Fordham College at Lincoln Center (FCLC). The new majors are similar in name, but are unrelated.

Environmental Science is an interdisciplinary science major that will provide students with a solid foundation in scientific principles and their application to the environment, said Donna N. Heald, Ph.D., associate dean for science education at FCRH.

“This major will prepare students to be scientists,” Heald said of the environmental science major. “The emphasis is on a variety of science courses. It has a rigorous curriculum using an integrated systems approach that combines concepts and methods across the fields of biology, chemistry, physics, mathematics and environmental science.”

Following the solid scientific grounding in the first two years, upper division students will be provided specialized courses such as applied statistics, tropical ecology and environmental chemistry. They will be required to complete and independent science research project on an environmental topic or an internship at an environmental firm or government agency.

“It allows students to choose electives that will be tailored toward their major,” Heald said. “As a faculty, we are pretty excited to offer an interdisciplinary major. I was at an event recently and a potential student and his father mentioned they were glad to see this major offered at Fordham.”

The Environmental Policy major will offer students a multidisciplinary course of studies focused on the social values and policy dimensions of environmental issues, such as climate change.

It is a first in Fordham’s history, said John Van Buren, Ph.D., director of the environmental policy program and professor in the Department of Philosophy.

“The program reflects Fordham University’s mission of ‘men and women for others’ and ‘respect for the environment’ in that students are given the opportunity to serve the greater good in the areas of ecological literacy, citizenship, stewardship, sustainable development, environmental justice and future generations, effecting positive change in a world governed by complex scientific, social, economic, political and ethical interactions and processes,” Van Buren said.

The environmental policy major, which replaces the environmental studies minor, will include courses in philosophy, natural science, anthropology, history, economics, political science, design, literature and theology, as well as real-time New York City internships and study-abroad opportunities to gain international experience.

“In the past, the environmental studies minor has graduated 15 students per year, who have gone on to successful graduate studies and careers in environmental areas of philosophy, natural science, medicine, engineering, law, government, business, architecture, urban planning, education, communications and media, and not-for-profit public organizations,” Van Buren said.

—Gina Vergel

It Was a Beautiful Day…

As this issue was going to press, rock ’n‘ roll legends U2 were invading the Rose Hill campus. The “little combo from the north side of Dublin,” as Bono called the band, performed on March 6 for thousands of Fordham students, faculty and staffers on Edwards Parade, as part of a broadcast for Good Morning America. Read all of the details in the next issue of Inside Fordham.

Luncheon Examines Fordham’s Catholic Identity

Peter Steinfels’ speech “What if There Were No Catholic Higher Education” provided a jumping off point for a wide-ranging discussion about how Fordham’s Catholic Identity can be strengthened.

The discussion, which was held on Feb. 23 in the President’s Dining Room at the Lowenstein Center on the Lincoln Center campus, was the first of three held on each of Fordham’s campuses. Patrick Ryan, S.J., vice president for University mission and ministry, led the talk, which centered on Steinfels’ keynote address to the Institute for Administrators in Catholic Higher Education at Boston College in 2005.

Father Ryan told the gathering of about 25 administrators and retired faculty members that what interested him most in the speech was the notion that a university stripped of its religious identity, like the classically Protestant universities such as Yale, Harvard and Princeton, was somehow diminished.

“There are certain types of discourse that would not go on if a university did not have a certain religious identity,” he said. “There’s a possibility of raising questions of ethical and moral concern that—in a sort of liberal, secular environment—might be said to be a matter for your private faith. If you’re a Catholic professor at Harvard or a Jewish professor at Ohio State, you may have opinions, but they are never to interfere with your academic work, as it were.”

A good deal of the conversation also centered on whether students and faculty sufficiently appreciate the Catholic identity of the University. Steinfels, the co-director of the Fordham Center on Religion and Culture, identified 15 “Dos and Don’ts” in his address. John P. McCarthy, Ph.D., professor emeritus of history and former director of Fordham Institute for Irish Studies, called attention to the sixth item, which suggests talking with new professors about the University’s religious mission earlier in the hiring process.

“He is very firm on his doubting some of the almost fig leaf efforts at showing Catholic identity,” McCarthy said, “whether it be confining Catholic studies to just one or two departments, or having an occasional speaker, or even identifying the University with the order that started it rather than the church itself.

“He makes it quite clear when he says it’s not just about hiring Catholics,” McCarthy continued. “Very often you can hire non Catholics who, in many ways, are infinitely more sympathetic or receptive to the church than any nominal or former Catholics on the faculty.”

Father Ryan responded by recounting how in a discussion with a Jewish member of Fordham’s Law School about the Jewish doctrine of just war theory, the faculty member said he relied upon the works of St. Augustine of Hippo and St. Thomas Aquinas. This, Father Ryan said, is an example of how Fordham’s charge of promoting social justice rooted in Christianity comes through in ordinary teaching.

—Patrick Verel

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