Building a better world is not just talk here. It’s the thread that weaves through your whole academic experience, as you learn to apply sustainability principles to everything you study.
The key to this approach is our signature Environmental Liberal Arts (ELA) general education curriculum, a rigorous 34- or 35-credit program every student completes. Regardless of major, you learn how social, economic, and ecological sustainability are relevant and meaningful through coursework that stresses critical thinking, writing, and analysis. Outside of class, you put theory to the test in outings and service learning projects. This integrated focus creates a shared sense of purpose — because here, the environment is 100% relevant to every field.
ELA CORE COURSES
Images of Nature and Culture
This introductory course for all first year students 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 formal and informal 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 from Aristotle and Euclid to Darwin, Watson and Crick and chaos theory in mathematics. The influence of mythological, religious, political and economic factors will be discussed as they arise from those sources. Toward the end of the course, students prepare oral and written presentations on current scientific papers to show how they are illuminated by a study of some of the landmark events and ideas that have punctuated the history of science. 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 for me 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. The readings draw on the work of political philosophers and leaders, artists and scientists, and on contemporary analysis and stories of engagement. Students are asked to integrate, reflect upon, and apply these concepts to their personal goals. The course seeks to refine and enhance the student’s understanding of oneself as a citizen and the ability to research independently, critically assess disparate pieces of information, and communicate in both written and oral forms. Students explicitly make connections with prior courses in the ELA program and major; each student completes a project that relates the focus of this class to his own career projections and the student’s best understanding of personal goals for civic engagement. This project is a culmination and expression of the student’s personal interest and involvement with the mission of Green Mountain College.