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Department of Earth Studies

 "The care of the Earth is our most ancient and most worthy, and after all our most pleasing responsibility.  To cherish what remains of it and to foster its renewal is our only hope."         - Wendell Berry, The Art of the CommonplaceWater Lily

The Department of Earth Studies is committed to interdisciplinary, inquiry-based learning that explores the intersection of physical and social environments.  Coursework in this newly-minted and developing department will provide tools for fathoming nature and culture in order to creatively and holistically address the twenty-first century's dire ecological challenges.

To this end, faculty and students will take part in experiential learning (internships, independent studies, and fieldwork) grounded in the confluence of the sciences and humanities, that is, the intermingling of natural science, social science, the arts, and humanities.

In this way, the Department of Earth Studies will encourage students to

  • nurture robust and sustainably-designed communities
  • contribute to the lineage of ecologically-oriented arts and cultural studies
  • champion environmental justice
  • accept nature as measure in resource management
  • account for human and nonhuman health in local communities
  • adopt vocations in stewardship, service, and community engagement

moss on blueberryThe Berry Farming and Ecological Agrarianism Program constitutes the Department's first and foundational curriculum.  In Fall 2013 , St. Catharine College will launch a bachelor's degree and minor based on the lifework and philosophy of Wendell Berry, renowned writer, activist, and farmer.

Through a partnership with The Berry Center in New Castle, Kentucky, the College is crafting a program that embodies Berry's prime conviction:

"The soil is the great connector of lives, the source and destination of all.  It is the healer and restorer and resurrector, by which disease passes into health, age into youth, death into life.  Without proper care for it we can have no community, because without proper care of it we can have no life."

The Farming Program also relies on Berry's vision of education as an endeavor that "enable[s] citizens to live lives that are economically, politically, socially, and culturally responsible" by contextualizing information and prioritizing ecologically-sound practices and beliefs.

Ultimately, this curriculum will bring cohesiveness to land use strategies, farm policies, and local food systems, and it will offer a solid agricultural education for students who hope to maintain, renew, or initiate sustainable family farms and rural communities.  This edict will guide the department as it adds programs geared toward earth care and education.

Vocational Outlook for Earth Studies

The Department of Earth Studies is geared toward cultivating students who, as Wendell Berry put it, "are not content until they have fulfilled their vocations of stewardship." Creating vocations is more complicated that jobs creation because it requires a careful consideration and accounting of an individual's talents, predilections, and convictions.

Programs in Earth Studies foster commitment to places, ecosystems, and communities that translate to livelihoods in environmental leadership .  Graduates will be life-long learners with knowledge and skills that are applicable in a variety of fields, such as:Stone Pond

  • agriculture and food systems
  • natural resource management
  • environmental science
  • government, law, and policy making
  • commerce and marketing
  • education
  • creative writing, literary criticism, and media studies
  • visual and performing arts
  • social work
  • health care
  • community organizing
  • regional planning and leadership

Meet the Instructors

The Department of Earth Studies draws in instructors from across the disciplinary spectrum.  Students learn from St. Catharine's best teachers, many of whom hold terminal degrees and all of whom have years of experiences that merge scholastics with practical applications .  And as the department grows, so will our faculty base- to include the likes of geologists and geographers, artists and writers, plant and soil scientists, anthropologists and sociologists, ecologists and sustainable agriculturists, and cross-disciplinary environmental studies scholars.

Interested in Earth Studies?

Dr. Leah Bayens is building a network of campus and community collaborators.  Contact her for information about enrolling in courses, hosting student interns, or supporting the Berry Farming Program.

mountain laurel offset lotus mushroom on blueberry