Thursday, April 16
BENNINGTON — Bennington College plans to launch a new environmental studies program this fall that would link the college's current offerings and create new opportunities.

Funded through grant

"We're approaching it as a much more integrative understanding of environmental issues," Provost and Dean Elissa Tenny said Wednesday, "so not simply from a science perspective or social science perspective but looking at it all together."

The program, funded by a $325,000 grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, a philanthropy organization, is one of the first steps of the college's new curricular initiative — the Center for Advancement of Public Action.

The new initiative aims to bring students, faculty and visitors together to address the major questions of our time. It is about taking action, more so than traditional studying.

The grant will help establish the program in its first three years. The college plans to hire an environmental studies coordinator this fall who would run the program and have fundraising experience to keep it going.

Tenny said students have been excited about the program. Many have formed similar connections between disciplines before, she said, but the program will do so in a much more formal and concrete way.

The program will also tie curriculum to activities on campus and form connections with local environmental organizations, other Vermont educational institutions, non-profits and businesses with environmental interests.

There are eight related courses being offered this fall, including an architecture course under the college's visual arts department and a literature course dealing with environmental writing.

The college plans to house the program in a new $20 million building, which will serve as the base of the new initiative once it opens in the spring of 2011.

Contact John D. Waller at jwaller@benningtonbanner.com