Interdisciplinary course, trip to be offered
An interdisciplinary course that combines geology and sociology will be taught over spring break next semester in West Palm Beach, Florida.
According to Dr. Jessica Sullivan, the “new and unique” course titled “The Anthropocene,” will fulfill the behavioral and social sciences general education requirement. It also includes activities like snorkeling, which will take place during the break.
This course was created due to the increasing awareness of the Anthropocene, which is the “interdisciplinary approach to interpreting and understanding the far-reaching impacts of humanity on the Earth system.”
After attending a seminar in 2016, Sullivan and a colleague discussed the “need for increased awareness of the Anthropocene in our undergraduate curriculum.”
“The Anthropocene concept is an incredibly relevant topic, and one of personal interest to me. Every semester, I poll the students on their awareness of the Anthropocene. The vast majority of our college-aged students have never heard of the Anthropocene, yet this student body represents the next generation of decision-makers to guide us into the unknown.”
USC Aiken is currently one of the few universities in the country, and the first in South Carolina, to offer a course in this discipline.
Sullivan described the topic as “inherently interdisciplinary.” This contributed to the development of the course within the interdisciplinary program, including the addition of Dr. DeAnna Gore, who is a member of the sociology department.
The decision to hold the course study in Florida was designed for students to observe firsthand the effects of natural and anthropogenic changes to the environment. Due to recent hurricane disasters, students can witness the “unknown” and “long-term effects” of human impact on the environment.
Due to Sullivan’s prior experience working with South Florida Water Management District in West Palm Beach, FL, she built a partnership for the class where “(students) can visit numerous structures designed to control inland tidal influence.”
Furthermore, students will be able to “see the effects of natural and human-induced changes in the Everglades, and how estuaries are impacted by the controlled release of fresh water to the coastal zone.”
Since the class is both a credited course and a trip, the workload will be an equal balance of both “work and fun.”
“The purpose of this trip is to broaden the students’ perspective on their place in the Earth System while providing them with opportunities for field-based learning. In some cases, the students will also have a chance to learn a few research techniques that scientists use to study human-environment interactions.”
image by Noelle Kriegel.