Integrative Frameworks, What??

Hey everyone in the FES blog-o-sphere! Emily here, finally back in New Haven from a crazy recruitment tour of the Western US of A. I met a lot of really excellent people out there, and I hope many of you will be applying to the school either this year or if not now, then in the coming years.

I hope all of you on the East Coast weathered Sandy without too much damage. New Haven was spared, save for a couple trees and this guy.

With this post, I thought that I would spend some time talking about the Integrative Frameworks courses. Because they are the only required course that folks in the MEM program need to be taking, I figured giving them some time in the spotlight would be helpful to all you prospective MEM students (those of you looking into the MESc, MF, or MFS programs should know that these classes are open to you as well, even if they aren’t required).

Our website describes the IF classes as being “led by a team of faculty and teach[ing] interdisciplinary ways to approach and analyze complex environmental problems.” Indeed, the classes serve to do exactly what the website says they do. A team of 3-5 professors, all from different fields, teaches each of the Integrative Frameworks classes. Each class is a little bit different in the way it are set up, but generally, the professors take turns lecturing on the same issue from different points of view (business, anthropology, economics, engineering, etc).

Right now, we have three courses that fall under the “Integrative Frameworks” heading: Linkagesof Sustainability, Integrative Assessment, and Science to Solutions: How Should we Manage Water? You can check out our website to see course descriptions of each of the IF courses, here.

While I was a student at FES, I took the Linkages of Sustainability course. That year, it was taught by Os Schmitz (a traditional ecologist), Karen Hebert (an anthropologist), Tom Graedel (an industrial ecologist), and Tony Leiserowitz (a climate communication specialist). Each class was about a different sustainability topic, but tended to focus the most on different food issues and different development issues. Some of the classes were debates between the different professors. Some classes were more seminar style, and yet others were more like a regular lecture class. The course also involved a separate discussion section, led by one of the Teaching Fellows (doctoral students), which were smaller sessions (of only about 10 students) discussing in more detail the readings from each week.

That year, we were required to write three essays, based on different sustainability case-studies. One study had to do with development in Africa, one had to do with urban abandonment in Detroit, and the third had to do with defining “sustainability” as it applies to our work as environmental professionals. There were weekly readings (as with almost all classes at FES), mostly dealing with different frameworks to define and talk about the word “sustainability.” There were certainly kinks that got worked out as the semester went on, and the class, overall, gave me a solid theoretical framework on which to base the rest of my studies at the school (especially since I consider my focus at FES to have been “sustainable community development” and “sustainability in higher education.”

Of course, it is important to note that when I took the class 3 years ago, it was the first year such a requirement was in place for MEM students, and it was only the second time the class had been taught. The class, like all of the IF courses, has undergone much change since then, and each year the response from students has been more and more positive.

I hope that gives a little bit more insight on what the heck these classes are all about, but certainly, if you’re still confused, I would be happy to talk to you at length about my experience with this particular requirement.

Until next time,