Why Rhodes For Environmental Studies and Sciences?

palmer hall in the fall
palmer hall in the fall

The Environmental Studies & Sciences Program prepares students to be leaders in the 21st century world in which environmental questions will become increasingly pressing. These issues will require a global perspective, and Rhodes helps to prepare students think about the environment from a world wide point of view by encouraging study abroad and international internship opportunities. Our students have already worked on environmental and related issues in Bolivia, South Africa, Costa Rica, Namibia, and other international locations.

At the same time, this Program is unique from similar programs at other schools by using the resources of our local community. As a small liberal arts college in an urban setting, there are numerous possibilities for research relating to urban environmental questions (brownfields, environmental justice, etc.). In addition, our location along the Mississippi River, on the edge of the Delta, and atop the New Madrid Fault present other possible opportunities for students to study and research environmental issues in hands on ways. This Program models the time honored environmental saying: “think globally, act locally.”

The Environmental Studies & Sciences Program at Rhodes offers several distinct advantages to students.

All students take a broad range of coursework, which requires them to think across disciplinary lines. Twelve different departments participate in the program. Our core courses ask students to think about environmental issues past and present from a humanities/social sciences approach, as well as a natural science perspective. Regardless of which major from our Program one pursues, students are always involved in an interdisciplinary approach to the study of the environment.

All students in both majors must take Geographic Information Systems, a crucial and highly marketable skill for anyone working with environmental issues today.

Rhodes is well situated for a range of research and study since it is both in the Mississippi River ecosystem and on top of the New Madrid fault, and also located in a major urban area with all of the associated environmental issues that come with cities. Thus Rhodes students encounter a wide range of environmental issue in their own back yard.

As a result of its location, Rhodes students have a broad range of internships and volunteer opportunities in the Memphis region. We have partnerships with the Memphis Zoo and organizations like Shelby Farms Park Conservancy (the largest urban park in the US), Bridges USA, Wolf River Conservancy, Livable Memphis, Project Green Fork, and many others where we place interns.

Rhodes emphasizes student research, and the Environmental Studies and Sciences Program has embraced that goal as well. Students have participated in the Rhodes Institute for Regional Studies, an 8 week summer research experience; they have presented work at our Undergraduate Research and Creative Activities Symposium (URCAS); and they have presented research in local and national conferences.

We encourage students to study abroad/away when possible. Students can study in Namibia as part of a course on Environmental Issues in Southern Africa. Our partnerships with the Teton Science Schools in Jackson, Wyoming, allows students to take a summer course on Rocky Mountain Ecology. Students go on any number of other study abroad programs around the world and often count those courses toward their Environmental Studies or Environmental Sciences majors.

The Environmental Studies & Sciences Program has been able to offer travel grants to our students attending conferences or doing research off campus, and we have also provided grants to majors and minors doing environmental study abroad programs.

Finally, as part of a rigorous small liberal arts college, students in this program get lots of personal attention and mentoring. Those personal connections with professors lead to richer classroom and research experiences as well as more detailed and personal letters of recommendation.