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Leaving the Program in Sound Shape
With talk of sustainability and environmental responsibility abuzz on campus and many national policies favoring profit over negative environmental impact, Smith’s young program in Environmental Science and Policy may be more vital than ever.

And in some ways, says Dawn Greene Norchi, who spent three years building and coordinating the program, the recent setbacks in the nation’s protection of natural resources may benefit the program by inspiring more Smith students to become environmentalists.

Norchi, who recently vacated her post to become the manager of the Wildlife Conservation Society’s North American Program in New York, is confident about the future of the Environmental Science and Policy (ES&P) Program. “I’m very pleased with the program’s growth,” she says of the ES&P Program, which began in 1998. “It’s on a solid trajectory.”

With 25 students listed as ES&P minors, the program offers a broad curriculum of cross-disciplinary courses with the departments of anthropology, biology, chemistry, engineering, geology, government, history, philosophy, public policy and sociology, in addition to an abundance of internship and field research opportunities.

“Most environmental studies programs have a particular strength,” says Norchi. “Ours is hands-on experience. We encourage students to participate in internships and in field research, including our own student-faculty research projects that emphasize interdisciplinary problem-solving.”

Each summer, Norchi has placed students in environmental internships, many of them with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), a broad government agency that works to protect the health of the environment and responsibly manage the nation’s coastal and marine resources.

Smith’s partnership with NOAA has become stronger through the consistently high quality of the college’s internship program, says Norchi. “We have such a good relationship with this government agency because of the students,” she said. “They have a stellar record.”

As testimony to the successful relationship, six Smith alumnae are now employed at NOAA.

Smith pays students a $3,500 stipend to work with NOAA personnel on research projects in a variety of settings, including wildlife sanctuaries, coastal research labs and aboard sea-going vessels.

Since she began in fall 1999, Norchi has launched several initiatives that she hopes will continue, including EcoLunches, in which students, faculty and staff discuss campus sustainability; lectures by environmental leaders; an alumnae symposium titled “Smith Women in the Environment;” visits from representatives of graduate schools and off-campus research programs; and advising students on the environmental field.

“The program is now at an important juncture,” Norchi says. “There is a wellspring of support from students and interested faculty and staff. What is now needed is a vigorous commitment to environmental science and policy from the senior level of the college administration.”

In the future, Norchi would like to see more students enroll in the ES&P Program, as well as more faculty teaching related courses and increased alumnae support. She recommends that the program offer an introductory survey course on environmental science and policy, and that a new position be added for a campus sustainability coordinator.

A search will soon begin for a new associate director of the Environmental Science and Policy Program to replace Norchi. Until that person is hired, the program will be coordinated by Joanne McMullin ’02, an Ada Comstock Scholar alumna.

Norchi looks forward to applying to her new job what she’s learned from the ES&P Program’s success. She will continue to watch the development of the program that she helped build—albeit from her home in New York and her new office in the Bronx.

 
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