Diversity & Democracy: Civic Learning for Shared Futures
Diversity Innovations Institutional Leadership and Commitment
Diversity Digest Volume 9, Number 2

Diversity Digest
Volume 9,
Number 3

Download our print issue (PDF)
Faculty Involvement
Science, Diversity, and Global Learning: Untangling Complex Problems
Breaking the Pyramid: Putting Science in the Core
Geologic Science for Global Citizenship: Under the Radar, but on the Web
Science and Global Learning at Carnegie Mellon University
Campus-Community Connections
Science and Citizenship: Habits of Mind for Global Understanding
Curricular Transformation
Connecting Global Learning and Science Education in the General Education Curriculum
Science, Gender, and the Environment
Student Experience
Seeing the World Around You
Institutional Leadership
Developing a Scalable, Sustainable Campus Diversity Initiative
Resources for Science, Diversity, and Global Learning

Seeing the World Around You

By Daniel Utley, student, the College of Wooster

As a student at the College of Wooster, I am frequently exposed to innovative courses and forward-thinking professors and peers. My experience in Science, Gender, and the Environment was one that fully embodied everything I had hoped to gain from a liberal arts class. I am a believer in interdisciplinary studies, and I think that classes that combine several subjects create unique learning environments and attract diverse student populations.

In our class we had a fair mix of science and humanities majors. This was positive in many ways, most notably because everyone had a chance to be an expert in at least some part of the course. As a result, we were able to teach each other through presentations and discussions, which created many opportunities for active learning. As a physics major, I learned a great deal from the women’s studies majors about feminist perspectives and about analyzing environmental and scientific issues in ways that take gender issues into account. I also learned how seemingly inaccessible the scientific community can be to those educated in other disciplines. As someone who wishes to become a science educator, this was perhaps the most surprising and valuable lesson I learned from the class.

Each section of our course was organized around a different text or environmental issue. I was deeply moved by our discussions of Refuge, a book by Mormon feminist author Terry Tempest Williams. Refuge is Williams’s story of her mother’s battle with cancer, which plays out against a similar mutation in nature when the Great Salt Lake rises far above its usual height on the surrounding avian refuge in Salt Lake City, Utah. This was a book unlike any other I have read. It opened my eyes to a new approach to science and the environment, an approach that accepts the natural ebb and flow of the earth and tries not to harness it, but instead to embrace and love it, even through tragedy. Our study of the issues raised by the book culminated with a campus visit from Williams, who captivated our class and left us wanting more.

Although all of the students in our class had different reactions to the course materials, we all came away from the experience having learned several very important lessons. First, be critical of what so-called experts say, because there are many scientific claims made to the general public that lack proper supporting evidence. Second, question the motives and practices of large industries; all too often the health of the environment and human workers are sacrificed for the sake of larger profits. Third, be aware of your surroundings and your community to ensure your safety. Do you know, for example, where your drinking water comes from? Finally, consider environmental issues from the perspective of those who are most adversely affected; oftentimes that means women and children.

As a result of my experience in Science, Gender, and the Environment, I feel that I am a better-educated scientist and citizen. My horizons have expanded to incorporate thinking about gender and environment issues on a regular basis. I am very glad the College of Wooster has offered such a course and hope that other institutions will realize the potential of interdisciplinary education in transforming how students see the world.

Questions, comments, and suggestions regarding Diversity & Democracy should be directed to Kathryn Peltier Campbell at campbell@aacu.org.
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