Skip to main content

A brief history of the Environmental Studies Program

Following the post-Katrina restructuring of Tulane University, the environmentally focused coordinate major was subsumed by the newly formed School of Science and Engineering. This new Environmental Science major took a technological/methods heavy approach to the study of environments and systems, leaving little room for students to gain an understanding of, and appreciation for, the complex ways in which environmental conditions and environmental change affect and are affected by human activity and cultural practices. Thus in 2007, under the direction of Dr. William Balée (Professor of Anthropology, Tulane University), the Environmental Studies major was designed in SLA, enrolling its first majors in January 2008. This new major took an interdisciplinary approach, creating four distribution requirements that encompass a variety of subject areas covering both science and human based aspects of the environment. The distribution requirements include: (1) distribution and conservation of living things, (2) landscapes and seascapes through time, (3) problems and potentialities of built environments, and (4) environmental thought, practice, and policy. In 2010, Prof. Balee stepped down as EVST director, after which Professor George Flowers, Associate Professor of Earth and Environmental Sciences, graciously served as director through June 2013. In July 2013, the directorship of the program was brought back to the School of Liberal Arts with Katharine Jack, Professor of Anthropology, taking up the position.

Today EVST is among the School of Liberal Art's most popular and fastest-growing majors. Indeed, the program has attracted the interest of students since its inception: there were 49 declared majors in the program by the spring semester of 2009 with eight students graduating with degrees in Environmental Studies in May 2010. The major continues to grow and since 2014 the program has had over 100 declared majors with ~35 Tulane students graduating with a Bachelor of Arts in Environmental Studies each year.