Villanova University Announces New Master’s Degree in Environmental Science

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Program builds on existing strength in wetlands and coastal studies with a focus on environmental planning. Announcement of new MS in Environmental Science comes as Pope Francis prepares to release his encyclical on the environment June 18.

Villanova University has announced the launch of a new master’s degree program in Environmental Science. Housed within the University’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences (CLAS), the program will welcome its first students in the fall of 2016.

“This exciting new graduate program reflects Villanova University’s strong commitment to advancing knowledge and research about environmental issues,” said Adele Lindenmeyr, PhD, Dean, Villanova University College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. “Worldwide concerns about environmental preservation, resources, and climate change make this an ideal time to launch this master’s program. Drawing on the teaching and research strengths of the faculty in the Department of Geography and the Environment, the new program will strengthen Villanova’s ability to educate the leaders who will advance our understanding of current environmental challenges and create the solutions.”

Villanova is only the second university in the Philadelphia-area to offer an MS in Environmental Science, with the University of Pennsylvania being the other. The Villanova program will accommodate 30 graduate students and is designed to appeal to professionals returning to the classroom as well as students moving directly into graduate study after completing their baccalaureate degrees. Both thesis and non-thesis options will be offered.

The new Master of Science degree adds to the existing bachelor’s degrees offered by Villanova’s Department of Geography and the Environment, which currently has more than one hundred students majoring in Environmental Science, Environmental Studies and Geography. Since the Department of Geography and the Environment launched in 2007, enrollment has increased significantly and students have benefitted from industry partners like URS Corporation, SAIC, React Environmental Professional Services Group and Langan Engineering. Additional organizations that have hired CLAS graduates include Alcon Pharmaceuticals, Broadspire, U.S. Center for Disease Control, Goodwin-Procter LLP, Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission and Global Green USA.

“We are witnessing environmental change that is unique in human history. Our program will emphasize integrated thinking and learning––at the nexus of science, policy, and human behavior,” said Francis Galgano, PhD, chair, Villanova University Department of Geography and the Environment. “Understanding the complex interactions between people and their environment requires a multidisciplinary perspective, which our department is uniquely situated to provide. This advanced degree program will place Villanova in a position of continued demonstrated academic and scholarly leadership in the environmental sciences within our geographic region and on a national level.”

The new master’s program will build on the department’s existing strengths in wetlands and coastal zone studies, and will offer a suite of courses in that area. Additionally, there will be courses focused on environmental planning and law. The degree will be supported by a backbone of science laboratory classes as well as courses offered in geospatial topics and Geographic Information Systems (GIS).

The department’s faculty are teacher-scholars who are involved with impactful environmental research which includes significant learning opportunities for students. Faculty members Lisa Rodrigues, PhD, Steven Goldsmith, PhD and Stephen Levas, PhD were recently funded by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation for a two-year project to quantify the impacts of land use change on near shore coral reefs. Additionally, Nathanial Weston, PhD was recently named a co-lead principal investigator on a project that has been funded by a $665,660 grant from the National Science Foundation. The project is titled “Human Alteration of Sediment Delivery to the Coast—Legacies of Land Use, Coastal Wetland Accretion, and Future Vulnerability to Sea Level Rise.” Dr. Melanie Vile focuses her research on the ecology of peatlands and their role in the carbon budget. She has a multi–year, multimillion dollar research program in Canada.

In addition, the department‘s faculty and students have been actively engaged for the past several years in examining the effects of fracking on stream and groundwater in North-Central Pennsylvania. Two faculty members, Steven Goldsmith, PhD and Nathaniel Weston, PhD were awarded a Pennsylvania Sea Grant with matching funds from Villanova University in 2013 for a multi-year project.

The announcement of the MS in Environmental Science comes as Pope Francis prepares to release his encyclical on the environment, which is expected to outline how sustainable actions can drive the economic growth to lift people out of poverty. The new program also represents a continuation of Villanova University’s longstanding and ongoing commitment to sustainability. The University is a signatory of the Catholic Climate Covenant’s St. Francis Pledge, which is a commitment to advocate on behalf of people in poverty who face the harshest impacts of global climate change. Additionally, Villanova has been recognized for sustainability efforts by the Sierra Club and was named one of the most environmentally responsible colleges in the U.S. and Canada by The Princeton Review. For more information about the program, please visit http://www1.villanova.edu/villanova/artsci/geoenv.html.

About Villanova University’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences: Since its founding in 1842, Villanova University’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences has cultivated knowledge, understanding and intellectual courage for a purposeful life in a challenged and changing world. With 39 majors across the humanities, social sciences and natural sciences, it is the oldest and largest of Villanova’s colleges, serving more than 4,500 undergraduate and graduate students each year. The College is committed to a teacher-scholar model, offering outstanding undergraduate and graduate research opportunities and a rigorous core curriculum that prepares students to become critical thinkers, strong communicators and ethical leaders with a truly global perspective.

About Villanova University: Since 1842, Villanova University’s Augustinian Catholic intellectual tradition has been the cornerstone of an academic community in which students learn to think critically, act compassionately and succeed while serving others. There are more than 10,000 undergraduate, graduate and law students in the University's six colleges – the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, the Villanova School of Business, the College of Engineering, the College of Nursing, the College of Professional Studies and the Villanova University School of Law. As students grow intellectually, Villanova prepares them to become ethical leaders who create positive change everywhere life takes them.

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Jonathan Gust
Villanova University
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