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Release: Immediate

UI's environmental sciences degree program attracts undergraduates

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Ask Frank Weirich, University of Iowa associate professor of geology, what's new on campus this spring, and he'll likely skip over such topics as sports teams and new buildings to tell you about something called the "Environmental Sciences Degree."

The first new major undergraduate degree program to be offered by the university in years, the Environmental Sciences Degree Program is an interdisciplinary science program combining geology, biology and geography and leading to a bachelor of science in environmental sciences. The goal of the program, which is less than eight months old but already has more than 50 declared majors and more than 500 student enrollments in its introductory class, is to produce scientists who can tackle environmental problems for which a knowledge of either geoscience, hydrology, hydrogeology, and water chemistry, or biological and ecological sciences is necessary.

"The program will offer a straightforward, hard sciences environmental sciences degree," says Weirich (pronounced WHY-rick). "We're happy that we could bring it together as a unified program, by spending very little additional money and by building largely upon course offerings that we already had in the College of Liberal Arts." He adds the program has been made possible by the enthusiasm and support of faculty; the leadership role taken by Dick Baker, the new chair of the degree program; the department of geology; and the strong support and endorsement of the administration, in particular, the efforts of former liberal arts dean Judith Aiken.

Weirich, who in addition to his appointment in geology holds joint appointments in civil and environmental engineering in the UI College of Engineering and in geography and in the Iowa Institute of Hydraulic Research and serves on the executive committee of the new degree, says that interest in the program was so high that some students began "shadowing" the program last year by taking courses that would count toward the new degree. As a result, the program will graduate its first majors this spring. More can be learned about the degree by visiting the program's Web site at: http://www.env-science.uiowa.edu/.

3/5/98