New degree program captures students' passion for environment

selfie of Bailey Glazier in the SAP greenhouse
Bailey Glazier is among students who declared environmental and sustainability studies as a major.
Image Credit: courtesy photo
students at podium giving presentation
Students present at the Sustainability Showcase in November.
Image Credit: Rachael Mooney

Approved as a degree program one year ago, Environmental and Sustainability Studies (ENS) now has nearly 70 students who have declared it as a major.

The program started as a minor in 2008. Kelly Parker, program director and professor of philosophy, environmental, and sustainability studies and liberal studies, said its growth indicates that students have been eager to devote their studies to the environment, with the goal of finding jobs in the profession. 

One of those students, Bailey Glazier, said he has always had an inclination toward understanding the environment. Before deciding to major in ENS, Glazier was an English major and took ENS classes. 

“My classes now feel a lot more directed,” Glazier said. “Before I was taking all of these ENS courses that were great and interesting, but they didn’t really go toward one major."

Glazier said the students in the ENS program have created their own community where their ideas can be heard.

“There’s definitely a sense of common purpose and understanding of what we all share, and our beliefs of the environment,” he said. “You have to try to take into account many people’s ideas and understand where people are coming from so that you can make an inclusive community for everyone.”

Glazier works at Grand Valley's Sustainable Agriculture Project, where he preps the fields, plants seeds and maintains the plants as they grow. After earning a bachelor's degree in April, he wants to pursue a master's degree and has career plans to audit business practices on sustainability standards and help companies minimize their environmental impact.

Glazier said he is thankful that there is a program dedicated to learning about his passion.

“ENS courses develop a framework for interdisciplinary systems thinking,” he said. "Even though it’s a really tricky topic, the environment is only going to be figured out if we look at it and explore it, and understand it.”

-- written by Olivia Conaty, student writer