Environment Bridging Disciplines Program

STATEMENT OF OBJECTIVE: The Environment Bridging Disciplines Program (BDP) gives students the opportunity to explore a variety of disciplinary approaches to environmental processes and contemporary environmental issues. By bringing together courses in natural sciences, social sciences, design disciplines and the humanities, this program affords a complex understanding of how the diverse parts of Earth’s environment interact. A Geology major might choose to deepen an appreciation of human-environment interactions with a selection of Government, History, and Geography courses in Liberal Arts, while a Journalism major might use Natural Science courses to develop an understanding of the scientific method. Designed to complement a range of majors, the Environment BDP prepares students to address environmental issues in careers as researchers, writers, policy makers, sustainable business leaders, and educators.

An interdisciplinary panel of faculty with an interest in the environment helps students design individualized programs of study that complement their majors and interests, and they are instrumental in helping students find internships and opportunities to participate in faculty research.

BDP certificates combine courses that fulfill core requirements, electives, and a limited number of courses counting toward students’ majors with unique research and internships. With planning, the BDP should not add time to students’ UT careers. Rather, the BDP certificates are designed to help students choose the courses they already have to take in an integrated way, giving them the opportunity to develop a secondary area of specialization.

Our goal is to have the Environment BDP approved for recognition on students’ official transcripts. We would like to begin recognizing the Environment BDP on official transcripts for students who graduate in fall 2009. This change affects pages 21-22 of the 2008-10 Undergraduate Catalog.

NEED (EXPECTED DEMAND): There are currently 60 active students in the Environment BDP, and we expect 5-10 students to graduate with an Environment certificate in the 2008-09 academic year. We expect that the program will continue to grow and could accommodate up to approximately 100 active students in any given year.

In order to earn a Certificate in the Environment Bridging Disciplines Program, students must fulfill the following requirements:

23. At least nineteen credit hours of course work, to be distributed as follows:
a. Foundation Courses: One credit hour of foundation course work that introduces key concepts and methodologies related to the interdisciplinary study of the Environment. Students choose one course from the following category:
i. Forum Seminar: BDP 101: Environmental Change and Sustainability; or another course approved by the Environment faculty committee.
b. Connecting Experiences: Six to nine credit hours of undergraduate research or internships that connect students’ Environment BDP to their major field. Connecting Experiences are designed to be individualized based on the student’s interests and goals, and a variety of course numbers offered through the BDPs (BDP 310, 311, 320, 321) and in departments across the University may be used. All students must write a 3-5 page essay reflecting on the experience, in addition to the academic requirements specified by the faculty member supervising the student and assigning a grade. Examples of past Connecting Experiences completed by Environment students include internships at the Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center, the Austin Nature and Science Center, and the Center for Maximum Potential Building Systems. Students have completed research Connecting Experiences focusing on sustainable development in East Austin; Singapore’s Green Plan; and water quality in Town Lake.
c. Courses in a Strand: Nine to twelve credit hours of courses in a strand that allow students to focus their remaining BDP course work. Students may design an individualized strand drawing from courses in the College of Natural Sciences, the Jackson School of Geosciences, the College of Liberal Arts, the Cockrell School of Engineering, and the School of Architecture. The attached curriculum sheet for the Environment BDP lists the currently approved courses. The faculty committee for the Environment BDP approves new courses that may count toward the certificate each semester, and the committee may also approve student petitions to count unlisted courses on a case-by-case basis.
24. A 3-4 page integration essay in which students reflect on what they have learned and accomplished through their BDP experience. These essays will be reviewed by members of the BDP faculty panel.
25. Students must earn a grade of C or above in each of the courses taken to fulfill BDP requirements. All but one of the courses taken to fulfill BDP requirements must be taken on the letter-grade basis.
26. At least half of the required course work in the BDP certificate must be completed in residence at The University of Texas at Austin.
27. Completion of the requirements of a major.

Chris Bell (Committee Chair), Associate Professor, Department of Geological Sciences
Shere Abbott, Director, Center for Science and Practice of Sustainability
Jay Banner, Professor, Department of Geological Sciences
Robert Dull, Assistant Professor, Department of Geography and the Environment
Ken Dunton, Professor, Marine Science Institute
Jim Dyer, Professor, Department of Information, Risk, and Operations Management
Dean Hendrickson, Curator, Texas Memorial Museum; Assistant Professor, Section of Integrative Biology
Des Lawler, Professor, Department of Civil Engineering
Steven Moore, Professor, School of Architecture
Dick Richardson, Professor, Section of Integrative Biology
Trish Roberts-Miller, Associate Professor, Department of Rhetoric and Writing
Sahotra Sarkar, Professor, Section of Integrative Biology and Department of Philosophy
Sarah Simmons, Program Director, Office for Honors, Research, and International Study, College of Natural Sciences

The purpose of a student transcript is to serve as a comprehensive record of a student’s academic progress and achievement at the University. Students pursuing BDP certificate programs at UT Austin complete 19 credit hours related to secondary areas of specialization without receiving recognition for this work on their official transcripts. Recognizing the Environment BDP on students’ official transcripts will represent a more comprehensive picture of these students' academic achievement at UT Austin.

It is in the interests of our students to list BDP certificates on official transcripts, particularly as they apply for jobs and for graduate and professional programs. In most cases, students pursue BDP certificates in order to develop a secondary area of specialization that enhances their major and gives them an additional professional qualification. For example, a student pursuing a certificate in Environment through the Bridging Disciplines Program might wish to complement a Biology or Civil Engineering degree with a certificate that demonstrates more specific knowledge related to environmental issues. By recognizing this program on transcripts, we will help these students convey more effectively the full picture of what they learned and accomplished at UT.

Recognizing BDP certificate programs is also in the interest of the University, not only as a means of supporting students as they apply for jobs and graduate/professional school programs, but also as a means of recruiting new students and advising current students. From a recruitment perspective, the ability to combine a major with a certificate might prove attractive to prospective students, particularly those with interests in areas where UT does not yet offer a major. From an advising perspective, the option of combining a certificate with a major might help persuade students to choose majors more rationally, especially in cases where students have been rejected from their first-choice college or feel compelled to select multiple majors.


Approver: Paul B. Woodruff
Date: December 16, 2008
Title: Dean, School of Undergraduate Studies