Environmental Conversations

“Most of us know, deep down, that we need an ecological revolution to build a world that is sustainable. …Uncovering the intellectual and emotional patterns that connect us to the degradation of nature, we’ll discover new patterns of thinking and acting to create the world we want to live and work in.”

The Nature of College by James J. Farrell (1949-2013; in remembrance)

What is Environmental Conversations (EnCon)?
In a world needing to tackle climate change and other ecological crises, environmental concerns have become relevant for everyone. As such, St. Olaf is proud to offer the Environmental Conversations program. It is open to any admitted student wanting to start college in a learning community inquiring after a life of environmental thoughtfulness.

36 students and several faculty combine Introduction to Environmental Studies (ES 137) J-term with two environmentally themed sections of courses nearly all first-year students are required to take: Writing 111 and Religion 121.

In addition to sharing three courses throughout the year, you and other members of the learning community will live on the same floors in Kittelsby Hall. You won’t be roommates, so you and the group also get to know others well, but you’ll be close enough to keep sharing compelling ideas when class time is too short. Living in Kittlesby, you’ll also be able to take advantage of some of the special environmental programming prepared for the adjacent Hilleboe Hall, St. Olaf’s first green residence.

In addition to your classroom and residential learning, you’ll likely get backstage tours of environmentally cutting-edge places like St. Olaf’s cafeteria, power plant, and LEED Platinum Science Center. Plus, all may get to travel off-campus to sites as ecologically interesting as Weaver Dunes, or Nerstrand Big Woods, or local organic farms. A service learning project will give you a chance to practice what you’ve learned in the Northfield community.

How do I get into the Environmental Conversations program?
Once you are admitted to St. Olaf, you can then apply to the Environmental Conversations program through the Admissions Office’s Application Status Page. Respond to a question on that page about your interest in the values central to the program. The EnCon faculty determining next year’s class will use the brief essays as one factor in determining a good mix of students for this learning community.

Course Structure In A Nutshell
Half of the group will take their Writing 111 course in the fall and Religion 121 in the spring. The other half will take REL 121 in the fall and their writing course in the spring. The specific topics and faculty for next year will be posted as soon as they are known. The whole group will be together in a single section of Environmental Studies 137 during the January Interim.

Don’t hesitate to contact the program coordinator:

David Booth

Environmental Studies 137: Introduction to Environmental Studies
Writing 111: Doing Democracy: The Politics of Food
Writing 111: The Nature of Writing
Religion 121: Land, Food, and Justice in Biblical Traditions
Religiion 121: 
The Bible and the Idea of Nature