EnCon Academic Program

Current Course Offerings
Past Courses
General Education Requirements
Intended Learning Outcomes
“Come to the Environmental Conversation prepared. Prepared to learn, prepared to converse, and prepared to become incredibly passionate about the world we live in.”-Suzanne Hanle ’17

FALL 2020

Writing 111:  Being Green: Exploring our Environmental Life (Tony Lott, Political Science)
Our lives are shaped by our relationship to the environment and we, in turn, shape our environment. Our governments define how we use resources, access nature, and participate in sustainability programs. Our families and communities encourage certain values and discourage others. Economic, political, and social structures play a role in what counts as part of our environment and how it is valued. Through websites, blogs, essays, and dialogue, each of us will reflect on and explore further our individual, social, and global connections to the environment. We will begin at the individual-level and examine how we relate to the environment in mundane and extraordinary ways. Then, we will explore how our social relationships are based upon and influenced by our environment. Finally, we will examine how our species is intrinsically tied to our global home and what that means for our individual environmental lives.

Writing 111: Climate Fiction (Jeremy Nagamatsu, English)
Glacial ice is melting and sea levels are rising. Climate change exacerbated by human activity is happening, and the debate about these changes continues. Storytelling is at the heart of this dialogue. Stories are the vehicles scientists and nonprofits use to make their cases; it is also the vehicle of multinational corporations and lobbying groups. But through film and literature, stories can offer a much more intimate lens, allowing for social critique and the illumination of a future we’d be remiss not to imagine. This seminar will examine the stories scientists and corporations tell but will pay special attention to how some of our most celebrated science fiction and literary authors have tackled questions such as: What can we do? What will the world look like? and What will we lose? In examining how art and politics address these issues, we will discuss a wide-range of texts ranging from novels and short stories to scholarly articles and mainstream journalism. As a class, we will explore what makes a climate change story successful (and believable) by examining artistic and rhetorical strategies of assigned readings. Assignments will include a personal essay, an original creative work with rationale statement, a researched essay, and smaller assignments such as reading forum and film responses.


Religion 121: Word and Water (Kiara Jorgenson, Religion)

Whether by its presence or absence, water plays a critical role in the biblical texts. In this section students are encouraged to read the Bible as a collection of environmental histories, with special attention given to the function of its cosmic waters, seas, rivers, deserts, pools, and wells. The first half of the course will explore how water signifies theological concepts like origin, destruction, judgment, wisdom, purity and promise within the historical-cultural landscape of the text. The latter part of the course considers how the Bible might speak to contemporary hydrological issues such as: fresh-water scarcity, watershed justice, hydraulic fracturing, ocean acidification, industrial agriculture, maternal health, and water as a human right.

INTERIM 2021

Environmental Studies 137: Introduction to Environmental Studies (AnneGothmann, Environmental Studies and Physics & Jennie Bentrup, Biology and Envronmental Studies)
This interdisciplinary course uses basic concepts of environmental science to explore global environmental issues. Topics are drawn from recent texts and current periodic literature, and participants will recognize many of the themes from coverage in the media. Because most environmental problems involve issues beyond the sciences, the class examines the economic, political, and ethical dimensions of environmental questions and environmental decision-making.

SPRING 2021

Writing 111: Living in the Anthropocene (Juliet Patterson, English)
Section Description: How do ideas of “race” and “nature” shape environmental politics and policy? To what degree is environmental harm linked to social systems and power struggles among humans? How can we link theories of social inequality to theories of environmental studies? How can we imagine and enact change and justice in our lives and in the world in ways that are attentive to hierarchy, inequalities, systems of power, vastly different worldviews, and complexity and contradiction? In this seminar, we will
explore these questions in both reading and writing. Students will be asked to pay close attention to the ways in which concepts like race, gender, class, citizenship, nations, and species intersect and shape one another in order to better understand how systems of power and inequality are constructed, reinforced, and challenged. Major assignments are designed to develop research and writing skills and may include research-driven essays, opinion pieces, personal narratives and brief reading responses.

Religion 121: The Bible & Ecological Desire (Peder Jothen, Religion)
Many of our daily activities that impact the environment have to do with our consumption of material objects. From shopping on Amazon to eating lunch in Stav Hall, the dominant contemporary social imaginary teaches us to become consumers of things, no matter the environmental consequences. Such consumption focuses on individual happiness rather than the affirmation that we are interdependent, ecologically-rooted beings. This section of 121 will focus on ways the biblical tradition imagines a different culture of consumption, one rooted in ecological interdependence. To do so, we will explore issues such as food production, the care for land and animals, the connection between ecosystem and human health, and the giftedness of the ecosystem. Our attention will also focus on both the importance of human desire as causing our actions but also the different ways the biblical authors envision practices that orient our desires toward ecological wholeness.

Religion 121: Word and Water (Kiara Jorgenson, Religion)
Whether by its presence or absence, water plays a critical role in the biblical texts. In this section students are encouraged to read the Bible as a collection of environmental histories, with special attention given to the function of its cosmic waters, seas, rivers, deserts, pools, and wells. The first half of the course will explore how water signifies theological concepts like origin, destruction, judgment, wisdom, purity and promise within the historical-cultural landscape of the text. The latter part of the course considers how the Bible might speak to contemporary hydrological issues such as: fresh-water scarcity, watershed justice, hydraulic fracturing, ocean acidification, industrial agriculture, maternal health, and water as a human right.

PAST COURSES

Living in the Anthropocene (Juliet Patterson, English)
The Bible and the Idea of Nature (David Booth, Religion)
Land, Food, and Justice in Biblical Traditions (David Booth, Religion)
Doing Democracy: The Politics of Food (Rebecca Richards, English)
The Nature of Nature Writing (Kaethe Schwehn, English)
A”Green” Bible?: Earth, Its Creatures, and Ecological Imagination (Jake Erickson, Religion)

GENERAL EDUCATION REQUIREMENTS FULFILLED

The courses of EnCon satisfy three important St. Olaf general education requirements.

  • First-Year Writing (FYW): 
    A course, taken in the first year, that equips students for effective writing in the liberal arts and introduces writing as a means of learning.
  • First-Year Religion (BTS-B):
    A course that introduces first-year students to dialogue between biblical traditions and the cultures and communities related to them. Students study major biblical texts and their interaction with theology, religious practice, ethics and social values, while considering methods and fields in the study of religion in a liberal arts setting.
  • Integrated Science Topics (IST):
    A course that develops an integrative understanding of scientific content, scientific principles, and the methods of contemporary natural science.

 

LEARNING OUTCOMES

The faculty have published intended learning outcomes for each general education requirement, and for the Environmental Conversations program.

1. First-Year Writing (FYW)

Students will demonstrate:

  • the ability to write effectively in a variety of forms for the generally-educated reader.
  • the ability to engage in writing as a systematic, interactive process, using flexible strategies for generating drafts, responding to feedback, revising, editing, and proofreading.
  • proficiency in using research to support critical inquiry, including the ability to identify, evaluate, analyze, synthesize, and document appropriate sources.

2. First-Year Religion (BTS-B)

Students will demonstrate:

  • familiarity with the central narratives of the Bible.
  • familiarity with the diversity of types of writing in the Bible.
  • introductory knowledge of important methods and findings of the scholarly study of the Bible.
  • the ability to make informed judgments in reading and interpreting biblical texts.
  • an understanding of the ways in which biblical texts and the communities that read them influence one another.

3. Integrated Science Topics (IST) 

Students will demonstrate:

  • an ability to use concepts and tools from one or more natural sciences to understand an issue or topic.
  • an ability to use a variety of disciplinary perspectives, within or in addition to the natural sciences, to understand an issue or topic.
  • an ability to use scientific terminology appropriately in meaningful scientific dialogue.

Environmental Conversations Intended Learning Outcomes

Students will demonstrate:

  • knowledge of the concept of “sustainability” as this concept has emerged in ongoing public conversations about environmentalism;
  • knowledge of many forms of interrelatedness, including interrelations of natural systems, and the mutual influences of natural systems, cultures, economies, and world-views; and
  • the ability to employ this knowledge in analyses and interpretations of particular cases.