Emory’s Department of Environmental Sciences will launch a new program next fall that will allow sophomore and junior Environmental Studies majors to earn both a Bachelor and Master of Science in five years and one summer. 

After the program is in place for one year, Emory will also launch a two-year graduate program for non-Emory students.

The 4+1 Emory program is designed to apply the natural and social sciences to regional and global conservation, according to a statement sent to the Wheel by Uriel Kitron, the chair of the Department of Environmental Sciences.

Kitron added that the need for a graduate program exists due to increased demand and opportunities for research in the field.

“Increasingly, people are looking for something that will set you apart from people with a bachelor’s [degree],” he said.

The environmental sciences include ecology, conservation, earth sciences and social sciences with the ultimate goal of creating solutions to regional and global environmental challenges.

According to Kitron, the major is one of the most interdisciplinary fields of study.

The department members will hire additional professors, specifically those with a focus in the social sciences, for the five-year program, Kitron said.

In regard to the new two-year program, it is not a requirement for students who apply from outside of Emory to have studied environmental sciences as an undergraduate, Kitron said.

According to him, an interest in environmental studies has increased during the last few years due to the political dispute about climate change.

While politicians continue to dispute the facts about climate change, many scientists agree that human beings are mostly responsible for global warming.

Kitron said the disparity exists because scientists are not adequately communicating their hypotheses to the laymen.

“The way we communicate as scientists is not very effective,” he said. “We are trained as scientists to give all the facts. It’s not a good way to communicate with the media.”

He added that another potential reason for the ongoing political dispute is the financial agendas of lobbyists, particularly in the United States as compared to various European countries.

As the issue of environmental preservation becomes more prominent in mainstream media, Emory Environmental Science students are also faced with the local ecological challenges present in Atlanta’s urban ecosystem.

“Atlanta is a fascinating case study,” Kitron said. “Atlanta has a lot of advantages and a lot of problems related to climate, transportation, sprawl and deforestation.”

As more and more people move into urban areas, students in the field will need to understand not just the science but also the political factors that affect environmental policy, according to Kitron.

He said those students who are interested in delving deeper into research will benefit from another year of school in order to collaborate with professors from various disciplines and gain an understanding about which direction they want to head in career-wise.

“It’s a challenge and an opportunity to study one of the most fascinating urban environments in the U.S.,” he said.  “It’s also our responsibility as an institute within Atlanta to do the kind of research, to practice the kind of actions that are relevant to make this a more livable urban environment.”

College sophomore Conner Sears, who is an Environmental Sciences major, said she will consider applying to the program.

“I think it will help attract more students to the department as well as stimulate research,” Sears said.

– By Rupsha Basu