Innovative climate studies major launched
In March 2022, the College of Arts and Science launched a new climate studies major that integrates the natural sciences, social sciences and humanities to give students a comprehensive perspective on climate change, its challenges and its possible solutions. It is an innovative approach to studying the climate, as existing climate majors at leading U.S. universities generally focus on climate science.
From its conception, the major has been built with a trans-institutional approach. David J. Hess, professor of sociology, James Thornton Fant Chair in Sustainability Studies and director of the newly named Climate and Environmental Studies program; Jonathan Gilligan, associate professor of Earth and environmental sciences and civil and environmental engineering and associate director for research at the Vanderbilt Climate Change Research Network; and Betsey A. Robinson, associate professor of history of art and architecture, all were co-chairs of the faculty committee that developed the major.
“We built this major at a time of growing recognition among the highest levels of scholarship and research that climate change is fundamentally an interdisciplinary problem that requires research and synthesis of knowledge across many disciplines,” Hess said. “Part of the motivation for creating this major is to address the global need to train the world’s future leaders in interdisciplinary approaches to climate change and other great challenges facing society.”