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Creating a new generation of environmental leaders

The College of Humanities and the School for Cultural & Social Transformation at the University of Utah have partnered to foster the next generation of environmental leaders through a new interdisciplinary undergraduate certificate in Environmental Humanities and Transformative Justice.

In fall 2024, undergraduate students at the U will have the opportunity to enhance their chosen degree with a certificate that provides an interdisciplinary and justice-oriented focus on environmental issues. Through this certificate, students will explore the social and cultural dimensions of environmental crises, connect ideas at the intersections of the sciences, the humanities, and communities and explore transformative possibilities for the future. The certificate equips students with action-oriented leadership, communication and social advocacy skills with which they can address complex social and environmental challenges.

“This certificate is ideal for students who are interested in the intersections between environmental and social transformation,” said Danielle Endres, professor of communication and director of the Environmental Humanities program. “More specifically, this certificate is designed to support students who are or want to be leaders in environmental and social change toward more equitable environmental futures.”

This certificate has a dedicated faculty advisor, Melissa Parks, assistant professor/lecturer in the Department of Communication, who is an expert in environmental justice, community engagement and experiential learning. Parks, in collaboration with advisors in humanities and the School for Cultural and Social Transformation will offer advising, community-building activities and academic support that will allow each student to have a meaningful pathway that contributes to their future goals.

Students who earn this certificate will be able to demonstrate an ability to not only apply the methods of the humanities to analyze environmental challenges, but also to consider the impacts of environmental challenges for diverse populations across dimensions of race, class, gender, ability and more. Students will learn to bring ethical and justice-oriented frameworks into their own environmental thinking and leadership.

“We are living through a time with pervasive environmental and social transformations that touch every aspect of society. It benefits all students to have a nuanced and deep understanding of environmental and social change. Given this, the certificate contributes to a range of possible career pathways in non-profit, governmental, educational, corporate, scientific, legal and healthcare fields,” said Endres.

Students must complete 21 total credits across a range of academic disciplines, which may include environmental studies, ethnic studies, gender studies, communication, history, anthropology, English, philosophy, geology, atmospheric science and biology. Through a capstone course, taught by Parks, students will apply what they have learned to a community-engaged project.

The certificate welcomes students from any major, particularly those studying sciences, social sciences, architecture and planning, education and health to enhance their major coursework with a justice-informed perspective on the human dimensions of environmental challenges.

Upon graduation, students will receive a separate diploma for completing the certificate requirements and a designation will also appear on their transcript.