It is now widely agreed that environmental issues, from climate change to land and water usage, to alternative energy, represent critical challenges for society. NIU is developing an Institute for the Study of the Environment, Sustainability, and Energy (ESE Institute) that will allow our students to cultivate careers in diverse and rapidly developing environmental fields. The academic program in Environmental Studies will be a rigorous interdisciplinary undergraduate and graduate program with the overall goal to address societal and scientific needs for a greater understanding of environmental issues. Recognizing the complexity of environmental issues, we are taking a holistic approach that connects energy (particularly alternative energy for Illinois), foundational and applied environmental science, with societal and policy issues. The strategies are twofold: to train people in a broad-based environmental studies curriculum that complements our existing focused programs; and to strengthen our research in environmental and alternative energy issues. The program will produce citizens prepared to meet these challenges via careers in industry, small business, federal, state and local governments, non-governmental organizations (NGO), and academic research.
The first strategy is the development of a world-class comprehensive and competitive undergraduate program in Environmental Studies, with subsequent growth of a graduate program. The newly created undergraduate degree consists of both BA and BS tracks. The program consists of five core courses that cover topics from the environmental sciences, environmental law and policy, green technologies, and the human experience. This foundation will allow students to learn about the breadth of knowledge in Environmental Studies. Students then will pick from one of six emphases: Biodiversity and Environmental Restoration, Energy Studies, Environment and the Human Experience, Environmental Policy, Non-Governmental Organizations, and Water. The next step will be creation of a graduate program that will be interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary. The overall goal of the undergraduate and graduate programs are to train students in the causes, scales, and remediation and mitigation approaches to major local, regional and global environmental problems. Students will acquire awareness of the complexity of factors relating to human interactions with the environment, with an eye toward workable solutions to important energy and environmental issues.
The second strategy will be the development of a research program in environmental studies and alternative energy issues. Expanding NIUâs existing strengths and broadening the pool of Environmental Studies faculty across campus will result in a program that will attract students and researchers to NIU. Through multidisciplinary and integrative research the ESE Institute seeks to: (1) evaluate the nature and magnitude of environmental and climatic change at local, regional and global scales, (2) understand and explore solutions to our energy challenges, and (3) assess the impact of environmental, climatic, and energy challenges on society and contribute toward the development of a public policy that promotes sustainability. The multidisciplinary research at the core of the program will directly enhance NIUâs research into climate, the environment and energy issues by encouraging communication among different research groups on campus and fostering shared analytical facilities between Departments and Colleges.