The history of the environmental studies (ENVS) club is linked inexorably to the history of the ENVS program at CU. The roots of today’s environmental studies degree begin in 1951, with the Conservation Education major, available through the then-joint Department of Geography and Geology. Eventually, the Conservation Education program evolved to include more study in the sciences, and in 1972 became Environmental Conservation. Initially, the number of majors in the Environmental Conservation program rarely was greater than 100, but the program saw rapid growth in the late eighties and early nineties, and by 1993 there were 514 Environmental Conservation majors. Given this growing interest, Environmental Studies became its own program in 1993, and a year later the first ENVS club formed.
Due to the relative newness of the ENVS program, undergraduates who were involved in the ENVS club decided to make lobbying on behalf of the program for more resources (money, faculty, etc.) a large part of the club’s purpose. Toward this end, the ENVS club organized a march on Old Main, with a gigantic fake check made out in the sum total of tuition paid by all ENVS students. Though Carol Watson, the then-staff administrator of ENVS, and Dr. Jim White, the then-director of ENVS, were working tirelessly in an attempt to secure more resources for the program, in the end it was this march and the clear message from the students, that finally convinced the Dean of Arts and Sciences, Peter Speer, to allocate a greater share of available funds. Through the coordinated efforts of both faculty and students, the ENVS program was able to secure more funding, from which new faculty positions and new courses were created. Eventually, the club’s most active members graduated, and internal conflict caused the club to lose some of its focus and direction. As a result, the first ENVS club dissolved in the early 2000’s.
The moral of the ENVS club’s history is an important one for students to hear: Students have far more power over the higher decision-making process than they sometimes realize. This is not to say that the efforts or opinions of faculty or staff are unimportant, but that our opinions, and our active engagement in our own program can help shape our major and our courses!
It is still important today to be involved, and to understand the direction in which the ENVS program is headed. Current events have certainly done much to shape the demand for a variety of topics for courses, and finding the best way to accommodate this demand, given a limited budget, will forever be a challenge. The ENVS club, as part of its larger goal of being a fun, informative, and engaging resource for ENVS majors on campus, hopes to better represent students’ feedback and suggestions in the effort to develop an even more effective program.
From all of us at the ENVS club, we are excited about your interest, and we can’t wait for you to join!
Historic information from:
Environmental Studies Program, History, An Overview.http://envs.colorado.edu/about/C114/History/
Interview: Dr. James White, 8/8/2009
Thanks also to Professor Dale Miller.