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23 April 2014

Program drops double major requirement

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Beginning fall 2014, students can declare an Ecosystem Science and Policy (ECS) major without having to complete a second major.

The double major requirement for ECS students was eliminated to allow students greater flexibility in designing their education, according to Gina Maranto, director of the ECS undergraduate program. The Faculty Senate voted on the decision in late February and was approved by the president’s office in March.

“We’re just part of a larger trend,” she said.

The School of Communication, along with most programs in the School of Education, took away the double major requirement as well.

The Abess Center for ECS has awarded Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Science degrees since 2004. The interdisciplinary ECS program combines a more traditional environmental science curriculum with policy courses. There are about 80 students with declared ECS majors.

Since the change was made, the Abess Center advisory board made sure that the Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Science degrees could stand on their own.

According to Richard Williamson, chair of the provost’s advisory committee, said there was some “controversy” with the B.S. degree and eliminating the double major requirement. Until now, ECS students had to complete a second degree in a science to complement the ECS Bachelor of Science degree.

“The sentiment was that we should be beefing up the B.S. part of the program,” he said.

Students are still required to complete at least a minor in a science and can pursue specialized tracks like environmental chemistry.

Unlike the Bachelor of Science degree, the changes to the Bachelor of Arts degree were not as difficult to address. The major addition to the Bachelor of Arts degree is enhancing the social science courses because it emphasizes more policy-based courses than hard science classes.

According to Maranto, students in their first or second year at UM may be able to take advantage of this change, but juniors may struggle to switch their requirements. She said that all university students can switch to another course bulletin that contains the academic requirements they would like to complete.

The tricky part of switching bulletins is that freshmen are under the new cognate system, which used to be known as general requirements.

“They have to figure out what cognates they’re going to take,” she said. “The logistics can be pretty complicated.”

ECS students like junior Derek Sheldon does not plan on taking advantage of the program change. He has completed most of his second major in geology and believes the second major should still continue to be an integral part of an ECS student’s course load.

“Personally when I apply for jobs, my geology degree is considerably more marketable,” he said. “I think it would be tough to find an internship or job with just an ECS degree because people don’t really know what that means.”