New major sees rapid growth

The Environmental Sciences, Policy and Management major may be one of the newer majors on campus, but itâÄôs already seeing huge growth in its enrollment numbers. The major was launched in 2006 after the College of Agriculture and College of Natural Resources combined to form the College of Food, Agriculture and Natural Resource Sciences , and it has seen continuous growth since. âÄúPeople are signing up at a rate that is incredible,âÄù said Kristin Nelson, a University of Minnesota professor who coordinates the major and also helped design it. Nelson said the college had planned for a 5 percent growth in enrollment, but the actual growth over the past year has been closer to 20 percent. The student-friendly design of the major as well as increased environmental awareness have both contributed to the growth of the major, Nelson said. âÄúI think right now in particular students are very interested in the environment,âÄù she said. The Environmental Sciences, Policy and Management, or ESPM, major contains five different tracks that students can choose to follow, Alicia George, an ESPM advisor , said. The different tracks range from one devoted strictly to the science of the environment to tracks specifically geared toward policy and education. George said that the breadth of courses is attractive to students because it gives them time to explore the major and figure out which aspect of environmental sciences they want to focus on. âÄúI know a lot of students come in and know they want to do something with environmental science,âÄù she said, âÄúbut they may not know exactly what they want to do yet.âÄù Liz Just, a first-year ESPM student, said she was drawn to the policy management aspect of the major. She said the flexibility of the major was appealing because she could have a specific focus to her major while still learning other aspects of environmental science. âÄúEnvironmental science is such a broad topic and thereâÄôs so much different stuff you can do with it that having the five different tracks made it really appealing,âÄù Just said. The chance to design a new major allowed the faculty to create a curriculum that will better prepare students for their careers. While planning the major, Nelson said the designers worked hard to make sure students were able to explore all aspects of the major. âÄúEnvironmental problems require interdisciplinary solutions, so you have to be able to understand more than just your expertise,âÄù Nelson said. The other big thing was to create flexibility for students to have some control over what they study, Nelson said. âÄúWe wanted to allow them to mold some of their major,âÄù she said, âÄúand to have the flexibilityâĦ to be able to select things that theyâÄôre interested in to study.âÄù Nelson said that when designing the major the team looked at a number of different universities to figure out how to best set up their program. She said the diverse Minnesota ecosystem affected the design process and pushed them to make the major focus more on interdisciplinary work than at other universities. âÄúI think that this one makes the best fit for Minnesota,âÄù Nelson said.