February 22, 2011

Students kayak on the Susquehanna River.

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By Christina Masciere Wallace

LEWISBURG, Pa. — Bucknell University has been awarded a $520,000 grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to support development of the Environmental Center and related revisions to the curriculum in the College of Arts and Sciences.

The grant will support the hiring of a permanent director for the Environmental Center, course development stipends for faculty who create new environmental courses, and geographic information system (GIS) efforts related to study of the environment.

The award, which will be distributed over four years, is the largest grant received for the purpose of enhancing environmental studies at Bucknell. It is also the largest grant made to Bucknell by the Mellon Foundation.

Growing strength and reputation
"We are grateful for the Mellon Foundation's generosity and foresight in selecting Bucknell for this grant," said President John Bravman. "It's an award that recognizes Bucknell's growing strength and reputation in environmental studies, an academic area that students and faculty are passionate about and one that they are making an important part of our commitment to interdisciplinary learning."

The grant speaks to the quality of environmental studies at the University, said Provost Mick Smyer, who noted that the funding will support a number of environmental initiatives.

"Bucknell faculty very early recognized that the environmental issues require a truly interdisciplinary approach," he said. "That is evidenced in two ways: the faculty-driven creation of an environmental center, and the common core curriculum they endorsed in 2009, which took effect with the Class of 2014."

Development of new courses
Under the revised core curriculum, students now must fulfill courses in Environmental Connections and Integrated Perspectives, among other areas. To meet student demand, part of the Mellon grant will fund faculty development of new courses related to environmental topics, as well as courses for the Environmental Residential College and teaching workshops.

Another portion of the funding will make the Environmental Center executive director position a permanent part of the University. The center, which was founded in 2004 and originally directed by faculty members on a rotating basis, has been led since last July by Interim Executive Director Cathy Myers. Bucknell will conduct a national search for a permanent director who is committed to excellence in scholarship, teaching, undergraduate research and strengthening the University's entire environmental enterprise both on campus and in the region.

The balance of the grant will support development of GIS technology as a tool in teaching, learning and research of environmental topics. Working with the staff of the Office of Library and Information Technology, Bucknell will introduce faculty to the uses of GIS and encourage its integration into the curriculum, and fund individual student researchers who are involved in GIS projects.

"Environmental studies at Bucknell have been growing significantly," said Smyer. "We have plans for important curricular development and research expansion. The Mellon Foundation grant validates the quality of the work we've been doing, and gives us the means to continue to grow."

Contact: Division of Communications