Popular and practical environmental education
by Kathy Arullo
If education is the answer - then there are plenty of ways to get started
he environmental job market will be undergoing major
growth well into the next century, and a common question fielded at the
San Diego Earth Times office is, "how can I get a job working for the
environment?" Our answer: get the training needed to grapple with the
complex, multidisciplinary issues these jobs entail.
Until recently, this training was typically only available
on-the-job, for those luck enough to land an apprenticeship position, or
academically as an offshoot of a traditional degree program, such as a B.A.
degree in biology. Today, many colleges and universities have responded
to this increased demand by creating specific programs targeting both new
students who want a "clean and green" start and older workers
looking to re-orient their careers.
A career in transition
Gail Glen wasn't quite sure what to expect when she
stepped inside the San Diego Career Center in Kearny Mesa. Glen had spent
ten years of her life in public broadcasting, but when radio station KPBS
reorganized and Glen's position fell victim to budget cuts, she found herself
looking for a new career. She had wanted to combine the experience she had
gained in previous public relations jobs with her strong interest and concern
with our natural environment (Glen emphasizes that her lifestyle is punctuated
by a "reuse, reduce, recycle" philosophy.)
So with help from the folks at the Career Center, Glen
decided to pursue a career in Environmental Management. This month, she
will be the first person to receive a Professional Certificate from the
UCSD Extension's Natural Resource Management Program.
When asked about the program, Glen only has high praises
for the quality of the classes she has taken. According to Glen, the instructors
are "very knowledgeable in their respective fields" and most of
them have teaching styles that facilitate learning.
The curriculum is not limited to lectures in the classroom:
field studies are a major part in the students' course work. The field trips
typically involve the study of the inhabitants and the natural history of
local ecosystems. Last Spring, Glen's class had a chance to explore and
learn about marine, mountain, and desert ecosystems in one weekend when
instructor Bill Toone took his students for a trip that began at La Jolla
Shores and ended at Julian.
Glen also likes the flexibility of the program when
it comes to course selections. Students may choose from as much as 13 elective
courses to meet the 15 elective units required for the certificate program.
The courses cover a wide range of topics such as environmental planning
and site analysis, endangered species and habitat management, water resource
planning and air pollution to name a few.
According to Program Coordinator Michelle Pelkey, students
are welcome to only take the courses that are of interest or that apply
to their career, and those interested need not be enrolled in the certificate
program to take the classes. Pelkey adds that the courses have attracted
people such as conservationists, consultants, environmental technicians
and scientists, developers, government agency employees, and environmentally-conscious
members of the general public.
Mastery and beyond
West Coast University in Mira Mesa offers an Environmental
Management Degree in their Masters in Science program. Graduate students
may choose to do projects on areas such as reclamation, purification, and
wastes and hazards management. According to Dave Cerny from WCU's Office
of Enrollment and Admissions, Environmental Management was a popular course
of study at the university two years ago, and the number of students in
the program has remained the same since. Recently WCU's Admissions office
has received more inquiries about the program from incoming students.
Many adults wishing to pursue environmental studies
require flexible schedules to fit in with their busy lives. National University
and The University of Redlands have curricula designed with this group in
mind. The University of Redlands, Whitehead College offers evening classes
in San Diego leading to a degree in Environmental Studies or Environmental
For a more focused on-campus setting, Bard College in
upstate New York offers three "intensive" summer sessions leading
to a Master of Science in Environmental Studies. From mid-June to mid-August,
Bard offers an immersion into a mix of courses cutting across academic disciplines.
Quality, variety, and get your hands dirty!
Other local institutions offer environmental coursework
as part of existing programs, as a specific undergraduate degree or as an
advanced degree in the environmental field.
San Diego City College offers two courses titled Issues in Environmental
Biology and Environmental Biology Natural History. These courses cost less
than $40 each and focus on issues such as conservation, effects of human
population on the natural environment, biodiversity, pollution, and natural
Miramar College, another excellent community college,
offers practical technical training for those seeking to understand clean
air and energy technologies and how to build and work on less-polluting
engines and machines.
San Diego State University offers Environmental Studies
as an "emphasis" under the Bachelor of Arts in Geography, so that
geography majors have the option of structuring their course of study along
the environmental track. Students may choose from areas such as Environmental
Geography (which focuses on natural resources and conservation), and Environmental
Perception and Behavioral Geography. The Graduate Program is geared towards
independent research, and underscores the university's willingness to work
with students. Sidney Lynch, a graduate student of Ecology at SDSU, adds
that the program is challenging, but help is always available from supportive
United States International University undergraduate
Stacey Williams, majoring in Environmental Studies, is pleased that knowledgeable
and experienced instructors are very accessible to their students. She also
says that what appealed to her the most about USIU's Environmental Studies
Program is the broad range of topics covered in the 25 classes offered in
the program. Courses focus on issues such as environmental restoration,
environmental economics, environmental laws, environmental design, and resource
In addition, the program emphasizes environmental problem
solving, community service, and a "hands on" approach in the context
of field work. Williams and other students in the program are currently
building a garden, and are experimenting on different watering techniques
and composting. It is a project that Williams and the others are expecting
to be continued and built upon by future students.
What can you do with an Environmental Science degree?
Lots. Practically all of the institutions direct their programs toward helping
students prepare for managerial and policy positions in various governmental
and non-governmental agencies that deal with environmental issues, environmental
consulting firms, private companies with strong environmental involvement,
universities and associated research institutes. Don't be discouraged by
naysayers out there who will tell you that it is tough to make a career
in the environmental arena.
Almost all of the Environmental Studies programs in
these local educational institutions are only about a year old - a reflection
of the increased demand for individuals with professional training in environmental
The protection of our environment, the sustainable management
of precious resources, and the responsible planning of development projects
by providing the much needed information that would enable people to work
together on finding solutions to environmental problems, and do their part
in restoring the environment.
Kathy Arullo is a student at UCSD and an intern for SDET.