A recipient of grants from the Conservation Fund, the Degenstein Foundation, and the John Ben Snow Trust, the Place Studies Program (formerly the Nature and Human Communities Initiative) focuses on the human-nature relationship in the Susquehanna Valley and beyond. The program seeks to develop new environmental approaches in the region beyond the study of quantitative physical relationships in the sciences and environmental planning by focusing on qualitative connections between nature, culture, and society, with applicability to the world at large.

Participants have an active interest in bringing a humanistic perspective to the study of the region in terms of how people have had an impact on their environment and how the environment has reciprocally shaped communities, literature, and the imagination. Place Studies involves historians, scholars of cultural narrative and literature, geographers, anthropologists, archaeologists, sociologists, philosophical and theological researchers, philosophers of the mind, scientists, local educators and students, community residents and leaders, representatives of native peoples whose cultures are associated with the region, and others.

The goals of the Place Studies Program include taking a role in defining a global definition of environmental humanities and social sciences in the 21st century while remaining focused on the Susquehanna Valley. Informed by a range of insights from deep ecology (a world view that sees all biota as equal and with a right to exist) to ecosemiotics (the study of how people have found meaning in nature), the program supports expanding research and peer-reviewed scholarship by faculty and undergraduates, innovative teaching and learning experiences, and community service related to scholarship.

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