Environmental Sciences

The Department of Environmental Sciences condemns the ongoing acts of racism and violence toward black individuals, families, and communities across the nation. We support the principles of justice promoted by the Black Lives Matter movement and stand with citizens who are angered, saddened, and frustrated by the systemic social injustice ingrained in the fabric of our society. Disenfranchisement on the basis of race, color, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, religion, age, or ability cannot be allowed to continue. We resolve ourselves to seek meaningful, long-lasting political, economic, social, and environmental equity for all people, now. We, as a faculty, are prepared to take action, and have unanimously committed ourselves to the following framework.
Commitment to Revise the Department of Environmental Sciences’ Mission Statement
In order to ensure that the Department of Environmental Sciences’ guiding principles incorporate inclusiveness, diversity, and equity, and are based on engagement with both the community and the profession to address issues of social and environmental justice, the Department will revise its core mission statement. This commitment will then be shared on course syllabi and social media, and embodied in departmental decision-making.
Inclusiveness and Diversity in Our Mission
Faculty, staff, and student diversity in race, color, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, religion, age, and ability, as well as beliefs, values, and ideals, strengthens the Environmental Sciences program and deepens the college experience for all participants. Exposure to different perspectives helps us all become better citizens and build a more just, inclusive, and equitable society. We stand with all marginalized groups who have suffered greatly from environmental and social injustices. The Department is dedicated to a fostering a welcoming, supportive, and collegial educational environment and commits itself to increasing the diversity of the faculty, staff, and student body through focused efforts in both recruitment and retention.'
Social Justice and the Environment Course
In fall 2020, the Department of Environmental Sciences has committed to offering a 3 credit-hour course on social justice from a uniquely environmental perspective. The course will examine the psychological, social, and historical underpinnings of contemporary racism, as well as its consequences. Both current and historical case studies will be used to evaluate the social framework of racial bigotry and the tools by which it is enforced, particularly within environmental contexts. The course will rely on discussions with leaders and activists in the field of environmental justice and will culminate in a local assessment of needs and analysis of barriers to addressing those needs. Emphasis will be placed on developing workable solutions in conjunction with the community to address the discussed needs. The course will meet requirements for upper-level elective coursework in both the BS and BA Environmental Science degrees.
Environmental Justice Applied Learning Experiences
All students in the Environmental Sciences programs are required to engage in applied learning. Beginning in fall 2020, the Department will offer a recurring opportunity for students to engage in applied learning experiences specifically addressing environmental justice. By partnering with relevant organizations, a variety of opportunities will be created for students to fulfill their applied learning requirement while participating in environmental justice-oriented community engagement. The course will appear as a named course on academic transcripts, so students will be recognized as having participated in an environmental justice applied learning experience. This opportunity bolsters the ongoing applied learning experiences of many Environmental Sciences students who work in capacities that reach underserved and underrepresented groups in many diverse environmental contexts and locations.
Environmental Justice Expansion Position
We request approval for the creation of a new tenure-track faculty position within the Department of Environmental Sciences specifically targeting issues of environmental justice. By taking firm and bold action, UNCW stands to position itself as a leader in increasing diversity and finding creative solutions to address inequity. The field of environmental justice is the perfect venue for undertaking that effort. The faculty of the Department of Environmental Sciences have unanimously agreed that committing to such a hire would address our strategic, long-term plans for growth. The new faculty member’s leadership efforts would complement and expand the ongoing efforts of the Department in addressing issues of environmental justice. There is no department better able to incorporate this position and make the best use of the new faculty member in ensuring that UNCW is an institution ready, able, and willing to move forward in commitments to social justice and diversity, including teaching, scholarship, and especially community engagement.
Student Input
In an effort to deepen the Department’s understanding of equity and diversity issues among our student body, and to inform our curriculum of these issues, the Department of Environmental Sciences will seek feedback from our students. To that end, the Department has formed a committee comprised of the Undergraduate Curriculum Coordinator, Graduate Curriculum Coordinator, and an Environmental Sciences faculty member with experience in mixed method surveys as well as environmental justice research to begin the process.
Curricular Reform
Although many courses currently offered by the Department integrate issues of contemporary and historical social and/or environmental justice into their content, the faculty have committed themselves to not only seeking opportunities to expand these content areas but also to better align this content between courses.
Community Engagement
The faculty have committed themselves to seek opportunities to expand engagement with the community to enhance research, service, and funding for areas of social and environmental justice reform. This will complement the ongoing work of faculty in the Environmental Sciences Department that aims to support underrepresented individuals and communities in a variety of social, environmental, and educational contexts.
Academic Partnerships
The Department will continue to expand its scope of academic partnerships across campus, including academic units, student organizations, and centers, who are focused on addressing issues of social and environmental justice.