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Environmental academic programs in U.S. institutions of higher education have traditionally lacked definition of their nature and unifying principles. In order to ascertain how these programs are presently constituted in U.S. institutions of higher education, we surveyed 1050 environmental programs/departments between November 2013 and March of 2014. The states with the highest number of those programs/departments were New York (100), Pennsylvania (92), California (76), Ohio (56), Massachusetts (54), while those with the lowest numbers are Oklahoma, and Utah (4), Delaware (3), Arkansas, Hawaii, South Dakota, and Wyoming (2), North Dakota (1), and Idaho (0). However, when the state population is taken into account and the number of programs per 1,000,000 inhabitants is calculated, the results vary greatly for the ones that were at the top in absolute numbers but remain basically the same for those that were at the bottom in absolute number. Thus, the states with the highest number of programs/departments per 1,000,000 inhabitants are Vermont (30.364), Montana (15.160), Maine (15.056), the District of Columbia (14.957), Alaska (14.080), and Rhode Island (10.451), and at the bottom we find Idaho (0), Arkansas (0.686), Oklahoma (1.066), Texas (1.352), Florida (1.436), Utah (1.447), Hawaii (1.470), and North Dakota (1.487). The names Environmental Science and Environmental Studies are, by far, the most common ones being applied to these programs, accounting for 52.40% of the programs in our study. Environmental programs are also housed in departments of Biology/Ecology/Conservation (9.93%), Policy/Analysis/Planning (7.19%), and Geology (4.79%). Between 1900 (the year of the first program was created) and 1958, only 14 programs were established. For the period 1959-1999, there is a dramatic increase in the number of programs. There are two big "waves" in the creation of programs: one between 1965 and 1976 (with a high peak in 1970) and another starting 1988 and, probably, continuing to this date, with a peak in 1997. Programs surveyed cited students and faculty demand and job market opportunities as the most common reasons behind the creation of these programs. The high diversity of names and emphases found in this study is consistent with the premise that Environmental Studies is a field where there is a lack of unifying principles and clarity of what environmental studies programs should be.


This work was originally published in the International Journal for Innovation Education and Research.

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