September 1, 2016

The Value of an Interdisciplinary Approach to the Environment

by Sierra Crook, class of 2017

Picture taken by Sierra Crook n a hike of the Volcán Mombacho in Nicaragua

The International Studies major with a track in Environmental Sciences has been a perfect melding of multiple course disciplines and my interests. Coming into Adelphi, I had a variety of subject areas that attracted me, with no real options or ideas on how to incorporate them with each other. No major that I was aware of involved both my passion for social and political issues, as well as my intrigue in the sciences. My experience with the IS major with an ES track has been the answer to my diverse palette of academic interests that no other major seems to provide. Particularly in the area of the environment, education on the scientific problems only is not enough to equip a person with the necessary knowledge to discuss issues and their potential solutions, since the subject is so politically and socially charged and dynamic as well.

This was very evident in my volunteer experience in San Juan de La Concepción, Masaya, Nicaragua last January, where all the disciplines I had been trained in through my major came into play. Working on an organic farm and nature preserve, I was able to engage my knowledge of the environmental effects of and on agriculture in the area and the importance of the ecosystems I was spending time in. The role of the Nicaraguan government in this arena, as well as the greater global food system, aided my understanding of the public sphere factors influencing the farm and nature preserve I was on. Arguably most useful was my training in the Spanish language, however, made available to me by the language requirements associated with my IS major. From my Spanish courses I also gained an understanding and appreciation of the culture and its importance, which enhanced my experience as I spent time in this foreign place. The significance of all the different elements of my IS major and specific track were made very clear to me on this wonderful trip, and revealed to me the importance of the balanced education I am receiving through my particular area of study. Without all of these elements, my contribution to my volunteer opportunity would have been much more limited, and my overall experience stunted.

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