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SFU approves new faculty

Simon Fraser University is opening an interdisciplin­ary faculty of the environment — only it doesn’t yet have a name.

Simon Fraser University is opening an interdisciplin­ary faculty of the environment — only it doesn’t yet have a name.

The SFU senate approved the new faculty in December and students will be able to enrol for an environment degree beginning fall 2010.

“There is a strong sentiment within some quarters of the university to make it the faculty of the environment and sustainability,” said John Clague, an earth sciences professor and chair of the academic committee that helped design the new faculty. “Sustainability being an important human issue, or social issue,” he added.

Regardless of whether sustainability will be reflected in the faculty’s name, human and social issues will play a key role in the environment curriculum.

“The idea is to bridge this traditional barrier between the physical sciences and the social sciences,” Clague said.

He admits “interdisciplinary” is a buzzword in academia, but points to climate change as one of many environmental problems, normally taught in the sciences, that requires co-operation between disciplines for a solution. Understanding human behaviour through fields like sociology is important in finding a solution to climate change that people will accept, he said.

Amanda Church, a student in her last semester of her masters of Earth sciences degree at SFU, said she would have liked to have learned more about economics during her degree.

“When you think about things like offset programs and carbon trading markets, it’s just going to become a huge area in the climate change field,” she said.

There are many more decisions, beyond the faculty’s name that still need to be confirmed, including details about staffing and funding.

The program idea is already intriguing students, but unfortunately, Church will have graduated by the time the faculty opens.

“I would take some economics, I’d take some law, some policy, I’ve got the science pretty nailed down,” she said. “And a lot of the stuff going on in green design and urban planning now is really really interesting, so maybe I’d take something there.”

 
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