2007 GSA Denver Annual Meeting (28–31 October 2007)

Paper No. 12
Presentation Time: 11:05 AM


VAN DER PLUIJM, Ben A., Geological Sciences, Univ Michigan, 1100 N University Ave, Ann Arbor, MI 48109, vdpluijm@umich.edu

A team of faculty from the natural and social sciences supports an interdisciplinary curriculum and minor degree program in earth and environmental sciences at the University of Michigan. We offer a series of lecture courses and laboratory sessions in Earth Systems Science and Sustainability, focusing on lower-level students. We have found that interdisciplinarity, inquiry-based learning and early capture of a student's interest create an attractive alternative to today's mostly disciplinary undergraduate education. Our emphasis on interdisciplinarity at the lower level has the potential to break new ground in structure, content and pedagogical methodology. After three lower-level courses, students can complete a minor in Global Change by taking two disciplinary upper-level classes. The goals and structure of the program reinterprets undergraduate education at Michigan, by providing an alternative model to general undergraduate education. First, the minor is "front-loaded," meaning that students are able and encouraged to complete most of their degree credit-hour requirements during their second (sophomore) year at the university. We find that this early interdisciplinary experience aids students in planning their subsequent university careers and affects their choice of a major, which otherwise does not involve traditional earth sciences degrees. Second, the minor is grounded in the interdisciplinary study of important global problems that engage student interest (e.g., resources, global warming, human development, environmental ethics), that are thematically integrated, and that are taught from a multi-disciplinary, inquiry-based perspective. Third, the courses are team-taught by faculty from various schools and colleges who are experts in their respective disciplines, while sharing overlapping interests in education. The diversity in faculty expertise and cultures further enhances the interdisciplinary approach that we offer our students, while also enriching faculty experiences. (see, http://globalchange.umich.edu)