Independent projects, research assistantships, study away opportunities, senior honors projects, and employment at the Adam Joseph Lewis Center further develop students’ ability to synthesize information and to apply their knowledge and skills to better understand topics of their choosing.
Many ES majors augment their experience at Oberlin by participating in related study away programs, Winter Term experiences, and summer internships. Students also have the opportunity to gain valuable training by working with faculty as teaching and research assistants. ES majors regularly participate in various campus committees such as the Committee on Environmental Sustainability (CES) that focuses on the sustainability of the Oberlin campus at large and the Green Edge Fund that allow students the opportunity to fund and pursue sustainability projects on and off campus. They also engage with student environmental organizations on campus such as Oberlin Food Rescue, Students for Energy Justice, and Real Food Challenge.
A dedicated endowed fund in the program supports one to two research assistants over the summer and academic year for each core faculty member to engage students in their research projects. In addition, ES faculty frequently hire RAs through various internal and external grants. In recent years, students have worked with John Petersen on the Environmental Dashboard project, Janet Fiskio on the Africatown project, Swapna Pathak on climate change policy, Rumi Shammin on urban food access, Chie Sakakibara on climate change in Arctic Alaska, and Karl Offen on historical document transcription. As evident from this list, many projects involving faculty-student collaboration include significant community engagement both locally and in distant places. Students also have the opportunity to work as teaching assistants for the ENVS 101 course. Each ENVS 101 section hires one TA per semester.
ES faculty and members of the Environmental Studies Program Committee regularly sponsor semester-long, credit-bearing independent research projects and individual and group private readings on topics of special interest to students that are not otherwise included in the Oberlin curriculum.
Additionally, the program oversees two funds that support student research:
The Doris Baron Environmental Studies Student Research Fund supports projects designed to increase knowledge of and appreciation for environmental studies.
The Ann Marie Schaening ’87 Memorial Fund provides support for students pursuing Winter Term projects related to the environment.
The Environmental Studies Program encourages juniors who have a record of academic excellence and who wish to do independent research projects during their senior year to apply to the Honors program in Environmental Studies. During the senior year, honors candidates will write a thesis that represents a substantial, well-focused research project. The thesis should be centered on environmental issues, questions, problems, and concerns. Because ES is interdisciplinary we expect that a thesis will consider the issues addressed from an interdisciplinary context. An hour-long oral examination will follow the completion of thesis. Students are also required to make a public oral presentation or present a poster on their research.
Each year about 20 students are employed to support operation of AJLC energy systems, living machine, and landscape. Students also regularly work with faculty as research assistants and often engage in community-based research in Oberlin, Cleveland (OH), Africatown (AL), and even in the remote indigenous villages of Arctic Alaska. Additionally, the Environmental Dashboard project employs several research assistants each semester who work with resource monitoring and ecological communication technologies on campus and in the Oberlin community.