Unrestricted Endowment

The Curriculum and the Community, Viewed Through the Lens of Environmental Studies
On-campus interaction among disciplines and student organizations has long been part of the culture of Colby, and our students also pursue vigorously opportunities to integrate their academic projects with community needs and interests. This year’s report describes just one of several departments that utilize the income from unrestricted endowment to develop connections between academics and the campus, the community, and the world.

The Environmental Studies Program
Environmental studies emphasizes the scientific and interdisciplinary foundations that influence environmental planning and decision making. The Environmental Studies Program at Colby prepares students for roles as educated citizens in a world increasingly confronted with environmental challenges as well as for entry-level positions in firms or government agencies dealing with these problems and for graduate work in related areas.

At Colby the Environmental Studies Program offers two majors. The first is an interdisciplinary major with a concentration in science that introduces students to national and global environmental issues and gives students the opportunity to focus on conservation biology, marine science, environmental chemistry, or environmental geology. The second is an interdisciplinary concentration in environmental policy. The foundation course in environmental studies is complemented by core courses in environmental economics, biology, ecology, chemistry or physics, geology, and mathematics. Students complete two courses focusing on humans and the environment. Seniors complete a capstone course related to their focus area.

F. Russell Cole, Oak Professor of Biological Sciences, directs the Environmental Studies Program, and Philip Nyhus, assistant professor of environmental studies, teaches courses with a concentration in policy and Geographic Information Systems (GIS). Assistant Professor Liliana Botcheva-Andonova splits her teaching duties between environmental studies and government. Her special interest is international environmental regimes. Botcheva-Andonova’s replacement while she is on sabbatical is Catherine Ashcraft, visiting instructor in environmental studies and government, who is teaching courses on policies for environmental negotiation and dispute resolution. Manuel Gimond is Colby’s GIS and quantitative analysis specialist and a research scientist in the Environmental Studies Program. The program also has an interdisciplinary advisory committee comprising Cole and Nyhus; David Firmage, Clara C. Piper Professor of Environmental Studies; D. Whitney King, Miselis Professor of Chemistry; James Webb, professor of history and director of the African Studies Program; and Catherine Bevier, professor of biology.

Environmental studies is the second largest interdisciplinary major and in the top ten ranking of number of majors per program/department on campus. Environmental studies is currently the most frequently cited area of interest on admissions applications. The discipline has grown from five majors in 1995 to 80 majors in the current academic year, with another 40 students selecting it as a minor. In addition to students majoring in environmental studies, more than 20 students are majoring in biology or chemistry with concentrations in environmental science, with courses taught by environmental studies faculty. With the growth in the numbers of students enrolled in environmental studies, the faculty is very pleased with the expanded space available in the new Diamond Building. Courses with a concentration in science remain in the F.W. Olin Science Center, and the concentration in policy is now housed in the Diamond Building, as is the GIS lab. The environmental studies seminar room in the Diamond Building provides many more opportunities for all of the students to work together. Prior to the opening of the Diamond Building, much of the interaction among courses and students had to be conducted online. Thus, environmental studies developed an expansive Web site that is still active, and we invite you to visit it at www.colby.edu/environ.

  Environmental studies has initiated a wide range of innovations that have had College-wide implications. For example, environmental studies professors recognized over a decade ago that Geographic Information Systems (GIS) could promote spatial learning as well as interdisciplinary research, teaching, outreach, and collaboration. Not only is GIS an integral part of four courses in the environmental studies curriculum, it is also gaining in importance for students and faculty in other departments and programs, and the GIS course is always fully enrolled. Colby students have access to state-of-the-art GIS mapping tools that enable them to create sophisticated computerized maps, analyze complex spatial data, and produce professional-looking cartographic output.
Students in the GIS lab
Students working in the GIS lab

The Environmental Studies Program also sponsors a vigorous speakers program open to all students and to the Waterville community, with formal evening lectures and frequent informal lunchtime lectures in Dana Hall. Most recently, on November 11, Mac Hunter, past president of the Society for Conservation Biology and professor of wildlife biology at the University of Maine in Orono, gave two lectures—Biodiversity: Buzzword or Fundamental Concept and Saving the Earth As a Career: Advice on Becoming a Conservation Professional.

Several components of Colby’s Environmental Studies Program are viewed as national models, e.g., its education-through-research pedagogy, its introductory Environment and Society course, and the senior capstone course, Problems in Environmental Science. Indicators of the success of Colby’s Environmental Studies Program are the grants awarded by major foundations. For the next two years, Janette Bulkan will be a visiting Mellon Fellow teaching international environmental human rights. Also with foundation funding, Gail Carlson, visiting assistant professor of environmental studies, whose areas of expertise include environmental health and toxicology and women and the environment, is again teaching her popular Environment and Human Health course as well as a new course on hazardous waste and environmental justice.

Student Research, Civic Engagement, and Campus Outreach
The Environmental Studies Program has a strong, project-based approach to learning that immerses students in research and analysis. This begins with the research component of the introductory course and continues through the senior capstone course. Students are encouraged to present the results of their research at local, regional, and national meetings. At Colby, the Environmental Science Program is a campus leader in incorporating civic engagement into the curriculum, and student research often involves projects that require civic engagement and/or campus outreach.
Rebecca Lipson '09
Rebecca Lipson '09 and her poster on Colby's environmental initiatives

At the Climate Change conference held on the Orono campus of the University of Maine in October 2008, Rebecca Lipson ’09 was one of three students working with Russ Cole who presented posters based on their research at Colby. Lipson’s poster focused on the environmental initiatives Colby has been employing to mitigate climate change. Many of these initiatives are an outgrowth of previous environmental studies students’ research. Sarah Sorenson ’11 and Zachary Ezor ’10 authored the second poster, which described findings from Colby’s student-developed carbon emissions model. Their poster won first prize in its category at the conference.

Many environmental studies courses develop research projects in collaboration with agencies and organizations in Maine. To cite only a few examples:
  • Since the late 1980s, students in the Problems in Environmental Science course have been conducting studies of watershed land use patterns and their impact on lake water quality in watersheds that surround the Colby campus, including the Belgrade Lakes. This work has been conducted in collaboration with the Maine Department of Environmental Protection and the local lake association. Each year, the class assumes the role of a consulting firm, and the students engage in real-world research. They develop an understanding of relevant state and local regulations and their applications, solve problems in a collaborative fashion, and employ research methods commonly used in the field of environmental science. At the end of their study the class publishes an extensive report and gives a detailed presentation to the lake association and other interested stakeholders.
    Cassie Jendzejec '08, James Pinkston '08, Ian McCullough '10 in a canoe
    Cassie Jendzejec '08, James Pinkston '08, Ian McCullough '10

  • Students in the Environmental Policy Practicum develop The State of Maine: An Environmental Assessment, an ongoing series of reports written by senior environmental policy majors focusing on issues of importance in Maine. Graduates of this course have gone on to work and graduate schools in fields such as forest conservation and lobster fisheries management as a result of their research in this course.

  • In the spring of 2008, students in Environment and Human Health carried out a very successful civic engagement project in which they worked on raising awareness and support in the local community for a bill submitted to the Maine Legislature, LD2048: An Act to Protect Children’s Health and the Environment from Toxic Chemicals in Toys and Children’s Products. Students designed brochures and printed postcards to send to state legislators in support of the bill. To raise awareness of the pending bill and the issue of hazardous chemicals in consumer products, they set up informational tables in town, went door-to-door and to church meetings, and addressed a science class at Waterville High School. They also organized a public forum, which was held at the George J. Mitchell School in Waterville on March 19, 2008. On the forum’s panel were environmental studies students; Michael Belliveau, the executive director of the Environmental Health Strategy Center in Maine; and state representatives Marilyn Canavan and Pamela Trinward. Students wrote letters to their legislators, and the Morning Sentinel published two letters to the editor. Environmental studies students attended both the public hearing about the bill before the Natural Resources Committee in Augusta and a public lobby day at the Statehouse. Students were very gratified when the bill passed and became Maine law, and afterward said that the experience showed them how possible it is to effect change through grassroots engagement and local involvement.

  • In the summer of 2007, Stephen Erario ’10 worked for the city of Waterville, taking inventory of greenhouse gas emissions created by the city government itself and the city at large. He created a sample action plan detailing how by 2015 the city could reduce government emissions by 15 percent of 2006 levels and community emissions by 10 percent of 2006 levels. Erario also participated in the creation of the Waterville Sustainability Committee, which was chaired by City Councilor Henry Beck ’09. Building on this work, Steve interned with the Maine Department of Environmental Protection—Office of Innovation, where he helped support the new Governor’s Carbon Challenge program. In the summer of 2008, Erario was joined by Robert Dillon ’09 and Kerry Whitaker ’08 and worked with the towns of Fairfield and Winslow to help reduce their climate change emissions. During both summer projects, Erario was mentored by Professor Cole and Mitchell Family Professor of Economics, Emeritus, Thomas Tietenberg. Currently, Erario is spending his junior year in Canberra, Australia, working with the Chief Minister’s Department and the Department of the Treasury to address energy, waste, and water patterns in those offices and to help Canberra’s most visible local government office become more sustainable.
Perhaps unique to Colby is a program coordinator position dedicated to involving Environmental Studies students in civic engagement opportunities, promoting domestic and international internships, writing a weekly program electronic newsletter, and managing the ES invited lecture series. ES Coordinator Beth Kopp has also been very successful in connecting students interested in the greening of the Colby campus with resources and guidance available through ES. In collaboration with faculty and administrative staff, ES students serve on the committee that advises President Adams on green initiatives and campus sustainability. The most recent initiative was to use a parcel of Colby’s garden area on Washington Street to grow organic produce for Colby’s dining halls. Two students worked at the garden in the summer of 2008, and harvested hundreds of pounds of vegetables for campus use. This is one of a number of successful greening initiatives conducted by ES in collaboration with the Colby dining services. There is strong interest in developing renewable energy for Mayflower Hill, and that topic is expected to be explored in the current academic year.