View in portable document format.




Dean Sharon Mosher of the Jackson School of Geosciences has filed with the secretary of the General Faculty the addition of the Bachelor of Science in Environmental Science with a major in Geological Sciences in the Jackson School of Geosciences chapter in the Undergraduate Catalog, 2010-2012. The Bachelor of Science in Environmental Science with a major in Geological Sciences is one of three environmental science majors being proposed at the University. The three majors (Biological Sciences in the School of Biological Sciences,Geographical Sciences in the Department of Geography and the Environment, and Geological Sciences in the Jackson School of Geosciences) will share a common academic core, drawing on the expertise of faculty in all three participating colleges. After completing the core, students can elect to pursue the major that best fits their particular area of academic interest. The faculty of the college approved the changes on May 14, 2009, and the dean approved the addition on October 15, 2009. The secretary has classified this proposal as legislation of general interest to more than one college or school.

The Committee on Undergraduate Degree Program Review recommended approval of the change on November 4, 2009, and forwarded the proposed changes to the Office of the General Faculty. The Faculty Council has the authority to approve this legislation on behalf of the General Faculty. The authority to grant final approval on this legislation resides with the executive vice chancellor for academic affairs.

If no objection is filed with the Office of the General Faculty by the date specified below, the legislation will be held to have been approved by the Faculty Council. If an objection is filed within the prescribed period, the legislation will be presented to the Faculty Council at its next meeting. The objection, with reasons, must be signed by a member of the Faculty Council.

To be counted, a protest must be received in the Office of the General Faculty by May 3, 2010.1

Greninger Signature

Sue Alexander Greninger, Secretary
The General Faculty and the Faculty Council

Distributed through the Faculty Council web site on November 24, 2009.

1The original no protest date was December 4, 2009. The legislation was approved by the Council at that time. Due to changes approved by the Colleges of Liberal Arts and Natural Sciences and the Jackson School of Geosciences on March 30, 2010, the legislation was resubmitted to the Faculty Council for a no protest vote.


NAME OF DEGREE PROGRAM(S): Bachelor of Science in Environmental Science, Major: Geological Sciences

Addition of a new degree and major in the Jackson School of Geosciences

Indicate pages in the undergraduate catalog where changes will be made.
Begin Bachelor of Science in Environmental Science, Major in Geological Sciences page 278 (approximately), before the Bachelor of Science in Geological Sciences Option V: Teaching and after the Bachelor of Science in Geological Sciences Option III: Hydrogeology.

The market for environmental scientists/specialists continues to expand at an increasing rate in the U.S., and notably in Texas. Environmental science is a broad category that includes a wide array of biological fields, from study of impacts of environmental degradation on human health, to conservation management and policy, to more distant fields where environmental science and technology training are advantageous, such as risk management in the context of a changing environment. The online Socrates occupation profile system shows that environmental scientist and specialist positions, with appropriate technology-intensive training and education, is expected to increase nearly 24% over the next six years, with 44% of the annual job openings coming from growth (rather than replacement). The documented average turnover rate indicates high career longevity for appropriately educated candidates; current percentages of females and minorities (21% and 19% respectively) are some of the highest for scientific careers and offer the university and state of Texas a clear opportunity to increase workforce diversity in important scientific fields.

Environmental science is an area of strong and growing interest among incoming and current students at the University, particularly among biology-oriented students, yet no designated program of study is available to them. There is no doubt that UT Austin is failing to recruit and retain top undergraduate students as a result of this.

Environmental challenges are among the greatest our society faces, and science provides the means to understand the nature, extent and impacts of environmental problems including climate change, loss of biodiversity, and threats to water resources, food supplies and other basic needs derived from the natural environment. Traditional disciplinary approaches to these problems do not provide comprehensive understanding of environmental processes under natural and human-perturbed scenarios. Developing the path to sustainable solutions to these challenges requires students to be trained in novel ways, where the development of an interdisciplinary perspective is a core principle.

Acting on the finding by the Commission of 125 that the University’s undergraduate core was outmoded, the Task Force on Curricular Reform recommended in its 2005 report an emphasis on increasing the interdisciplinary component in the core. An independent set of recommendations by Dr. David Hillis also emphasized the importance of interdisciplinary educational experiences.

There is a clear need for interdisciplinary expertise to address the complex and dynamic nature of processes of the earth and its environment, including social science perspectives such as policy and economics. The lack of interdisciplinary scientists, as well as policy makers conversant in science and vice versa, has posed serious obstacles to making progress on major environmental issues such as climate change, water resource sustainability, and biodiversity preservation.

The challenge for developing any environment-related degree plan is the course-intensive nature of providing interdisciplinary expertise that is not overly broad and shallow. This is a common affliction of environmental B.S. and B.A. degrees at other institutions. Prospective employers and top-tier graduate programs, which are invariably disciplinary, do not give high rankings for employment/admission to students with such ‘shallow’ degrees. We thus stand to do students more harm than good if we follow this lead. Rather, UT Austin has the opportunity to become known for an environmental science degree with high-quality, rigorous training in the sciences as its core, coupled with exposure to appropriate social science fields (e.g. economics and policy) to provide breadth.

Prospects for UT Austin in developing a distinctive environmental sciences degree are enhanced by an excellent faculty base across many environmental science-related disciplines (with noted international strengths in geology and biology). In addition, UT has access to unique local resources and teaching opportunities on campus, in the Austin area, and in the central and south Texas region, including 1) Multiple university field stations or affiliated preserves within 2 hours of the main campus (e.g. Stengl, Bee Cave Eco-Lab and Chaparral), 2) An instructional field, research and teaching lab within 15 minutes of the main campus (Brackenridge Field Laboratory), 3) Opportunities for both research and educational outreach via the Wildflower Center and the Texas Natural Science Center, 4) Opportunities for marine and coastal research and field training in the Gulf Coast estuaries and the Mission-Aransas National Estuarine Research Reserve, 5) Formal classes, laboratory training and research mentoring in marine/coastal sciences at the Marine Sciences Institute at Port Aransas, and 6) Organizational support for the EVS degree, research/training coordination and student guidance from the Environmental Sciences Institute.

Does this proposal impact other colleges/schools? If yes, then how? Yes, the B.S. Environmental Science degree will be offered in three colleges: College of Natural Sciences, College of Liberal Arts and the Jackson School of Geosciences. The three environmental science degrees will share a common core. The faculty and associate deans of each participating college have been collaborating on the development of degree requirements and will continue to work together to manage core course offerings and advising for all majors.

Has the other college(s)/school(s) been informed of the proposed change? If so, please indicate their response. Yes, the proposed Bachelor of Science in Environmental Science has been discussed, reviewed, and agreed to by Deans Eric Barron, Mary Ann Rankin, and Randy Diehl, and Associate Deans David Laude and Richard Flores, as well as Professor Jay Banner, Director of the Environmental Sciences Institute, Sharon Mosher, Chair of the Department of Geological Sciences, and by Department of Geography and the Environment faculty. Since then The Jackson School of Geosciences has named a new dean and department chair. Both Dean Sharon Mosher and Stephen Grand, chair of the Department of Geological Sciences have also reviewed and agreed to the proposed EVS degree. Professor Kenneth Young, the new chair of the Department of Geography and the Environment, has also reviewed and given his approval for the new degree.
Date of initial approval: April – May 2007.

Will this proposal change the number of required hours for degree completion? If yes, please explain. No.

Does this proposal involve changes to the core curriculum (42-hour core, signature courses, flags)? If yes, please explain. No.

Environmental Sciences Degree Plan Committee Approval: May 2, 2009
College Approval Date: May 14, 2009
Dean Approval Date: October 15, 2009

To view the edited version of the catalog changes click the PDF link at the beginning of this document.