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Putting environmental issues into global perspective

Skidmore has received a two-year $150,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Education to fund an initiative called "Building Bridges between International Affairs and Environmental Studies: Preparing Skidmore Students for the ‘Century of the Environment.’" The project will foster new collaborations to offer a more global environmental education.

Calling the grant "a terrific opportunity for the Skidmore community," President Jamienne Studley says, "In our increasingly interdependent world, we see daily how the sciences, social sciences, and humanities interact to define problems and solutions. The ‘Building Bridges’ initiative will encourage Skidmore students to acquire the knowledge and skills they need to develop their sense of international citizenship and environmental stewardship."

Roy Ginsberg
Political scientist Roy Ginsberg


Judy Halstead
Chemist Judy Halstead

Professor of Government Roy Ginsberg, former director of Skidmore’s International Affairs Program and one of two co-directors for "Building Bridges," explains, "This project will fill a special need by encouraging scientists and nonscientists to work together in new ways. Scientists help us to explain why the natural environment is changing and offer solutions to combat environmental degradation. Social-science and humanities scholars help us to explain the myriad contexts within which environmental problem-solving is either neglected or brought forward."

Associate Professor of Chemistry Judith Halstead, director of Skidmore’s Environmental Studies Program, is the project’s other co-director. She points out that a central goal of "Building Bridges" is to "develop Collegewide environmental literacy and to make international environmental issues a central topic of discussion." Halstead sees the key environmental issues of the future as water pollution and air pollution, particularly in developing countries; ozone depletion; and land-use management. "Potentially most important," she adds, "is how countries affect each other’s environments with regard to resource depletion and pollution."

"Building Bridges" is funded through Title VI-A of the Higher Education Act, which supports undergraduate international-studies and foreign-language education. At Skidmore, the grant will support a number of objectives, including:

• 19 new or revised courses in 14 disciplines

• the introduction of a languages-across-the-curriculum project to encourage students to use their competency in a foreign language to explore international and environmental issues in their research and internships

• workshops for science, environmental-studies, and international-affairs faculty from Skidmore and from peer institutions, to encourage interdisciplinary teaching of international environmental issues using new techniques and technologies

• community outreach through guest speakers and public events

Both Halstead and Ginsberg point to a high level of student interest as a key incentive for the "Building Bridges" project. Ginsberg says, "The students recognize that we are at the threshold of the ‘century of the environment,’ and they’re concerned with paying the price of 20th-century industrialization." What makes Skidmore’s project special, he says, "is that we plan to cut across disciplinary boundaries to foster collaboration on an issue that is central to the study and practice of international relations."

Halstead and Ginsberg have a more "global" goal for the project as well: to develop a model curriculum that can be adopted by peer institutions and hopefully contribute to a deeper understanding of international environmental issues by the broader public.

The Title VI-A grant for "Building Bridges" stems from the success of an earlier Title VI-A project at Skidmore. In 1996-98, a $143,000 grant supported new and revised courses in international affairs and helped sponsor the year-long "Broken Glass, Broken Lives" series of lectures, performances, and other activities that marked the 60th anniversary of Kristallnacht and explored a range of racism and genocide issues. —Andrea Wise

Photos: Phil Haggerty


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