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Introducing Boise State’s new School of the Environment

Boise State has a new school with a profound mission: transform teaching and learning into action to solve the most pressing environmental issues – drought, wildfire, sustainability planning and more – in Idaho and beyond.

“Idaho’s lands, people and industries need collaborative, community-based and interdisciplinary solutions to a variety of urgent challenges and that’s what we will work to create,” said Leslie Durham, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, home to the new school. “There is clear evidence that the earth’s systems need to heal, and we feel a profound hope as we work toward fixing what is broken and making systems whole again.”

Building a network

In its first year, the school will offer two new degree programs – a bachelor’s degree in environmental science and a master’s in environmental management. The school welcomes its first students in fall 2023.

“Students have been voting with their feet for environmental programming for a long time,” said Emily Wakild, a professor of history and environmental studies.

The school also will create support structures for collaboration and research across campus and build connections with community partners outside the university.

A group of accomplished faculty, including Wakild, Kevin Feris, the school’s inaugural director and Lejo Flores, an associate professor of geosciences, have led the design of the school over the past four years with working groups from various disciplines.

“Every college on campus is engaged in these working groups,” Feris said.
The team designed the school to “build connections and relationships among things that already exist,” Wakild said. This innovative structure nurtures connections across campus without having to physically move people or reorganize units. This design invites anyone “interested in creative and interdisciplinary ways of both understanding environmental challenges and finding solutions to them,” Flores said.

An interdisciplinary philosophy

Students in the school will be able to connect their interest in environmental issues with other academic areas including biology, public policy, journalism, health sciences, engineering or others.

Professional internships with the university’s external partners will benefit students and those organizations.

“It means the campus is doing what a state institution should do as part of its mission. It’s adding value to the local community,” Feris said.

Join the conversation

Emily Walkild, in collaboration with the College of Innovation and Design, leads “Keyword in Common,” a conversation series with community members, faculty and staff that takes place throughout the year and focuses on a range of environmental topics.

Learn more about these and other events on the School of the Environment’s website

“We are thrilled with the opportunities the new School of the Environment will provide to students, faculty, staff and our partners. Our commitment to solutions-oriented and transdisciplinary research and creative activity will tackle the most pressing sustainability and environmental issues of our time – right here, right now.” Nancy Glenn, vice president of research and economic development

By Jeff Oliver