The Environmental Studies faculty of the Natural and Behavioral Sciences Division at the University of Maine at Fort Kent believe that experience-based learning, whether in the field or in the laboratory, is essential for optimal learning and for career preparation. The faculty asserts that scientific literacy, defined as proficiency in critical thinking, logical reasoning, and communication pertaining to the sciences, is an essential ability that we must foster in our graduates so that they can respond to environmental challenges. Our liberal arts degree provides an interdisciplinary grounding in the natural sciences, social sciences, and humanities, with an emphasis on experiential learning. This broad background preparation, combined with the training in critical analysis that permeates our curriculum, prepares our Environmental Studies graduates to address local, regional, and global environmental issues.
Students in the Environmental Studies Program at UMFK develop a broad knowledge of the natural and social sciences, with a focus on an aspect of environmental studies that is of personal interest. Students learn to identify environmental issues, collect and interpret data, explore creative solutions, and communicate their findings. Students work with an interdisciplinary team of faculty with expertise in biology, chemistry, forestry, the social sciences, and the humanities. Small class sizes within the Environmental Studies program foster a close working relationship between faculty and students in an informal and nurturing atmosphere.
The Bachelor of Science in Environmental Studies degree is an interdisciplinary academic program that combines traditional classroom learning with hands-on outdoor experience. Consonant with the location of the campus in the center of the Acadian Forest Region, the program is oriented toward environmental issues affecting rural areas, small towns, and wildlands. Students develop an understanding of the general principles of ecological systems, including components, processes, interrelationships, and of the interactions that exist between natural and cultural systems within the global environment. Students complete a rigorous curriculum that emphasizes coursework in terrestrial ecology and human-environment interactions. With close advising by a faculty mentor, each student designs and executes an in-depth laboratory or field research study in the final year of their education. Students present this capstone work in a public lecture at the end of the semester. We believe that this opportunity to practice independent research is invaluable in helping our students to be well prepared for future careers or graduate study.
Career preparation is an important goal of our program. Careers for Environmental Studies graduates focus on the use, conservation, and protection of natural resources such as water, soil, forests, wildlife, and wilderness. Potential employers include resource management organizations, regulatory and enforcement agencies, municipal groups involved in community planning and public relations, nongovernmental environmental advocacy organizations, educational institutions, and private companies.
Another key goal of our program is to prepare students to be environmentally literate individuals who are committed to pursuing a sustainable natural world for the benefit of humanity and the environment. Our faculty infuse interdisciplinary liberal arts courses with exposure to environmental problems in our community. This service learning aspect of our curriculum fosters an understanding of how we impact the natural world, as well as an appreciation of our connection to nature.
All students in the Environmental Studies Program will participate in a Field Experience Program as part of their coursework. This program consists of experiential learning activities that students participate in through short field trips in the local area, as well as through multi-day expeditions to destinations across the U.S. The courses included in the Field Experience Program each have a $ 150 fee, which helps to cover necessary costs including travel, entrance fees, and camping. It is important that students take courses during the designated year and semester to ensure that they have the background preparation needed to benefit fully from the field-based activities.