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Environmental Liberal Arts
In their first semester at GMC, students learn about the region they’ll call home for the next four years through field trips and service learning, all the while writing essays and participating in lively class discussions. In their second semester, they fine tune their composition skills and ask tough questions about their responsibilities for creating healthy communities. Next students delve into science: They study Aristotle, Darwin, Watson and Crick and others, analyzing ideas and theories about the impact of science on society. As seniors, GMC students write a personal sustainability paper and undertake a capstone project that culminates their academic experience and tests their research skills. This project combines a student’s academic area of focus with a project that benefits the College or greater community.
These are the four core courses of GMC’s 37-credit Environmental Liberal Arts Program. They emphasize critical thinking, writing, and analysis skills – the hallmarks of a traditional liberal arts education. But they also challenge students to make connections across disciplines, to explore problems from multiple viewpoints, and to become leaders. The environment – encompassing its social, cultural, economic and natural components – unifies the ELA curriculum. Distribution courses from across the academic disciplines supplement the core courses.
“My education at GMC, both formal and experiential, provided me with the confidence, knowledge, and skills to effectively influence others into creating a sustainable community, a sustainable region, and eventually a sustainable world and society.”
Mikaela Engert ‘00
ELA Core Courses
Images of Nature
This introductory course explores some of the ways in which human societies make sense of the natural world. Students read literature that ranges from folklore and poetry to environmental philosophy and natural science, and develop a sense of how culture determines our understanding of our environment. The course begins to develop student writing through essays and journaling. Frequent field trips help root students in their new home while they test ideas from classroom readings. The ELA portfolio is begun in this course and added to in each of the subsequent core courses.
Voices of Community (first year writing seminar)
Building on the writing skills developed in Images of Nature, Voices of Community provides students with more extensive practice in composition and revision. The course cultivates the conventions of Standard Written English through a series of assignments that explores how the environment encompasses human relationships and communities. The critical thinking and communication skills learned in this course enable informed participation in these communities.
Dimensions of Nature
This course focuses on the development of scientific thought as humans endeavored to understand the structure, origin, and character of the natural world. Using original sources, students learn how the process of science has evolved. Toward the end of the course, students prepare oral and written presentations on current scientific papers. Students are challenged to think and read critically, to speak and write clearly, and to formulate intelligent questions about difficult texts that challenge their current beliefs and values.
A Delicate Balance
What does it mean to be an engaged citizen? Students explore the question in this seminar-based capstone course. Different contemporary issues each semester provide background for reflection on individual duty and ethical, environmental, and social policy issues. Students enhance their understanding of their role as citizens, and refine their research and oral and written communication skills. Each student completes a project that relates the focus of this class to career projections and goals for civic engagement. This project is a culmination of students’ personal interest and involvement with the mission of Green Mountain College.
Across the Disciplines
In additional to the core ELA courses, GMC students take seven courses from the following distribution areas: Quantitative Analysis, Natural Systems, Human Systems, Aesthetic Appreciation, Moral Reasoning, Historic Context and The Examined Life. The curriculum is designed to provide a breadth of knowledge, and students are encouraged to find their passion by exploring a diverse range of academic disciplines.