Environmental inquiry minor encourages environmental curiosity, literacy

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Addressing environmental concerns, enriching a wide range of majors and making an impact in the community — those are some of the benefits the environmental inquiry (ENVI) minor offers, according to Larry Gorenflo, faculty-in-charge of ENVI and professor of landscape architecture and geography at Penn State. The minor recently launched a new website.

ENVI, a minor supported by the Institutes of Energy and the Environment, is designed to expose students to crucial cross-disciplinary environmental studies that supplement their major coursework, providing students with the vital perspectives needed to initiate changes the planet desperately needs. To complete the minor, students must take 18 credits from one or more focus areas: biodiversity and ecosystems; environment and society; environmental explorations; ideas about the environment; water resources; human settlements; and energy resources. At least six of those credits must be 400-level courses.

Gorenflo said environmental literacy is important in a student’s academic development.

“I think the environmental inquiry minor provides a great opportunity for a student to learn more about environmental issues of personal interest during their studies at Penn State,” said Gorenflo. “Such coursework will help prepare students to work on environmental challenges following their years at the University.”

ENVI is open to all majors. The ideal candidate for the minor, according to Gorenflo, is someone with curiosity about environmental issues and a sense about how their major might be better connected to the environment.

Students who graduate with an ENVI minor gain the tools necessary to communicate about environmental issues and solutions with people in fields outside of their own.

Jack Swab, a 2017 Schreyer Honors College graduate who completed the environmental inquiry minor, is now a first-year master’s student in the geography program at the University of Oklahoma.

“The environmental inquiry minor gave me a broad basis in interdisciplinary environmental studies, which has been helpful in grad school,” said Swab.

Not only does ENVI help shape students into valuable members of academia or the workforce, it also prepares them to be productive, informed members of society. According to the ENVI website, being familiar with current environmental issues is an important part of being an informed citizen.

Alana Fiero, a senior majoring in media studies in the Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications, is pursuing minors in both environmental inquiry, and entrepreneurship and innovation. Fiero said she believes ENVI has equipped her with the knowledge necessary to frame scientific research in a way that dispels misinformation. 

“The minor has allowed me to approach environmental issues from the sociological perspective, as it’s opened my eyes to an entirely new way of communicating with people about problems that plague our Earth,” Fiero said.

“Understanding where people come from and tailoring environmental solutions to their needs can bring people together.”

Last Updated September 27, 2019