Environmental Management

, Volume 47, Issue 5, pp 716-726

First online:

College and University Environmental Programs as a Policy Problem (Part 2): Strategies for Improvement

  • Susan G. ClarkAffiliated withSchool of Forestry and Environmental Studies & Institution for Social and Policy Studies, Yale University Email author 
  • , Murray B. RutherfordAffiliated withSchool of Resource and Environmental Management, Simon Fraser University
  • , Matthew R. AuerAffiliated withSchool of Public and Environmental Affairs, University of Indiana
  • , David N. CherneyAffiliated withCenter for Science and Technology Policy Research, University of Colorado
  • , Richard L. WallaceAffiliated withEnvironmental Studies Program, Ursinus College
  • , David J. MattsonAffiliated withU.S. Geological Survey
  • , Douglas A. ClarkAffiliated withSchool of Environment & Sustainability, University of Saskatchewan
  • , Lee FooteAffiliated withDepartment of Renewable Resources, University of Alberta
  • , Naomi KrogmanAffiliated withDepartment of Rural Economy, University of Alberta
    • , Peter WilshusenAffiliated withEnvironmental Studies Program, Bucknell University
    • , Toddi SteelmanAffiliated withDepartment of Forestry and Environmental Resources, North Carolina State University

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Environmental studies and environmental sciences programs in American and Canadian colleges and universities seek to ameliorate environmental problems through empirical enquiry and analytic judgment. In a companion article (Part 1) we describe the environmental program movement (EPM) and discuss factors that have hindered its performance. Here, we complete our analysis by proposing strategies for improvement. We recommend that environmental programs re-organize around three principles. First, adopt as an overriding goal the concept of human dignity—defined as freedom and social justice in healthy, sustainable environments. This clear higher-order goal captures the human and environmental aspirations of the EPM and would provide a more coherent direction for the efforts of diverse participants. Second, employ an explicit, genuinely interdisciplinary analytical framework that facilitates the use of multiple methods to investigate and address environmental and social problems in context. Third, develop educational programs and applied experiences that provide students with the technical knowledge, powers of observation, critical thinking skills and management acumen required for them to become effective professionals and leaders. Organizing around these three principles would build unity in the EPM while at the same time capitalizing on the strengths of the many disciplines and diverse local conditions involved.


Environmental studies Environmental sciences Environmental education Interdisciplinary education Human dignity Sustainability Problem-solving skills Leadership