As Boise weather changes and brings a consistent winter chill, students and faculty on campus cannot help but interact with and deliberate about the climate. Among this population, there are devoted individuals who go much deeper than just weather in terms of the climate and humans’ relationship to it.
Two faculty members in this group are Jenn Pierce and Kerrie Weppner, who, in the fall of 2017, spearheaded the creation of a new minor which would help students specialize in climate studies.
“I developed and taught the first class on climate change at Boise State when I first arrived in 2005, and so that class on the short and long term effects on climate change has been going on ever since,” said Pierce, an associate professor of geoscience. “As I noticed that more and more students were interested in the topic, and of course climate change is something that affects all of us no matter what your major, I saw a student demand for more classes on climate change.”
Making more classes concentrated on climate change led Pierce, along with Weppner, to start working on making a minor on the topic. Not only did students have a desire to study the topic more intensively; but Pierce also noted that climate change is something that every student at Boise State should understand and be aware of, and making a minor helped to legitimize the topic.
Not only does the minor equip students with a specialized understanding of climate change, but it also addresses the lack of education on the complicated issue.
“One of the things that is really concerning to us is that kids are not learning about this in school, so we’ve been trying to get into the K-12 schools and teach kids about climate change, but it’s got to continue,” said Weppner, a research associate in the geoscience department. “The minor is important because, no matter what you do in the future, whatever career path you go down, it’s going to be impacted by climate change.”
Since creating the minor, Weppner and Pierce have been working to make it more accessible to a variety of students who can apply it to whatever major they have already chosen, including the triple-discipline degree.
Lason Crogh, a senior geology major, will be the first student to graduate with the climate studies minor. For Crogh, this minor not only allowed him to take classes that he was interested in, but also accentuated and better informed his studies in geology.
“Growing up in Idaho, a lot of people don’t believe in global warming or climate change, so when I was younger and before I went to school, I was almost against it,” Crogh said. “The challenge comes down to scientific literacy, really. Actually understanding the science, knowing what the science says, that’s the real challenge. Because people are going, ‘Oh, this is happening here,’ but that’s an effect, not a cause.”
Crogh said that taking classes on climate change helps students engage with the extensive scientific work being done on the climate, as well as how to personally and societally address the causes and minimize the effects.
Although many students and faculty do not have to take classes that focus on climate change and the way in which humans are entwined within it, several Boise State faculty members and students are working to encourage greater engagement with the conversation by equipping their peers with the skills to help combat climate change.