ESE: A Brief History
When Dr. Thorndike Saville arrived in 1919 to serve on the faculty of the Department of Civil Engineering, the history of Sanitary Engineering at UNC began. However, it was the matriculation of the first graduate student, Roy Jay Morton, June 13, 1923, which clearly established the beginning of graduate education in Sanitary Engineering at UNC. In 1926, Dr. Saville welcomed a new understudy, Dr. Herman G. Baity, the recipient of the first PhD in Sanitary Engineering to be awarded in the US. These are the origins of graduate education in the Department of Environmental Sciences and Engineering, formerly known as the Department of Sanitary Engineering.
Dr. Baity replaced Dr. Saville as Dean of Engineering at UNC in 1932 and served in that capacity until the dissolution of the School of Engineering in 1936. The consolidation of state educational functions, a result of the depression years, would change the academic structure of UNC from that point forward. At a time when all other existing engineering programs moved to NC State, it was Dr. Baitys determination that firmly rooted Sanitary Engineering in the new Division of Public Health. The graduate programs expanded and in 1940 the Division of Public Health became the School of Public Health. Graduate degrees included the Master of Science in Sanitary Engineering (MSSE), the Master of Science in Public Health (MSPH), and the Master of Public Health (MPH).
In 1955, Dr. Daniel A. Okun arrived to replace Herman G. Baity as Head of the Department of Sanitary Engineering. Under Dr. Okuns leadership (some 18 years), the department expanded substantially. As a result of an increase in available research funding from governmental programs, the department brought on scientists in the fields of air and industrial hygiene, radiological hygiene, environmental chemistry and environmental biology and the research focus of the department was clearly established. Doctoral study was inaugurated in 1959 and in 1962, the Department of Sanitary Engineering was renamed the Department of Environmental Sciences and Engineering.
When Dr. Okun retired in the early 1970s, Dr. Russell F. Christman was appointed as Chairman. Serving the department in the Chairmanship from 1973 until 1989, Dr. Christman steered ESE through the increase in environmental awareness of the 1970s and 80s which paralleled the development of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The heightened awareness during this period brought attention to the department and ESE expanded as research monies from the Federal government became available to fund research initiatives.
In 1989, ESE brought Dr. William H. Glaze to Chair the department. During his 8 years in the chairmanship Dr. Glaze has steadily worked to encourage the pursuit of environmental education across disciplines. Promoting collaborative work among the ESE faculty and the university at large, Dr. Glazes work, in June of 1997, culminated in the establishment of a new matrix style, cross-cutting academic unit of the university, the Carolina Environmental Program (CEP).
Figure 1 above represents the steady increase in degrees awarded and illustrates the departmental focus on graduate study over the years. Today, the Department is divided into five Program Areas: Atmospheric and Aquatic Sciences (AAS), Air Radiation and Industrial Hygiene (ARIH), Environmental Health Sciences (EHS), Environmental Management and Policy (EMP), and Water Resources Engineering (WRE).
Douglas J. Crawford-Brown, Professor
Impetus for the creation of a new undergraduate environmental curriculum came in 1973 when the North Carolina General Assembly urged the UNC School of Public Health to assist in meeting personnel needs in North Carolina by offering undergraduate instruction. In the 1975-76 academic year, Professor Emil Chanlett chaired a departmental committee to evaluate ESEs role in expanded undergraduate degree offerings. The committee recommended to the faculty that ESE offer an undergraduate degree option under the School of Public Healths BSPH program. Seven interdisciplinary undergraduate students were admitted to this trial program under the advisorship of Professors Chanlett, Reist and Christman. The goal of the project according to Professor Chanlett was to produce graduates at the baccalaureate level who just did not know environmental facts but knew how to interrelate and interpret them factually. "The students wont just know how man mismanages his environment, but will be capable of measuring, analyzing, promoting, and maintaining the optimum environment for the health of the public." In the spring of 1977, approximately one year after the BSPH was approved by the UNC Board of Governors, the ESE faculty formally approved the undergraduate program. ESEs first undergraduate students were enrolled that fall.
For the first decade, the undergraduate program remained relatively small and focused on the application of environmental science to issues of environmental management and public health. Both this size and the focus changed in 1990 when the program was redesigned by Professor Crawford-Brown with the advice and consent of the ESE faculty. The change was in response to two trends: the increasing interest in undergraduate environmental education on campus, and the shift of the department from one concerned primarily with practical environmental affairs to one focused equally on the fundamental science underlying the field. In response to these changes, the undergraduate program was directed toward one in which students remain grounded in a primary scientific discipline (chemistry, physics, mathematics or biology) while exploring the application of those disciplines to the interdisciplinary problems of the environment. These students were asked to select one of several tracks which would give them credentials not only in the environmental field but in one of these primary scientific disciplines.
Part of the reason for making the disciplines such a strong presence in the undergraduate program was the increasing competition for the few slots available in the undergraduate program. By 1993, the number of available positions had grown to 40, with more than 100 students indicating an interest in applying. This made for a very qualified pool of students with high GPAs and, more importantly, goals of going on to graduate school (more than 60% of graduates from the program currently enter graduate school). The grounding in a primary scientific discipline made them more attractive candidates to graduate schools and entry level positions with government and industry.
In addition, the new program required students to conduct a senior research project as part of their degree. These projects were directed by faculty both from within ESE and from other science departments on campus. The need to work in advanced research programs underlined the need for students to have a strong scientific background before extending their study into the environmental field. Over the course of the 1990s, the program took on the character of being rooted jointly in the fundamental science departments on campus and in ESE, giving it a somewhat unique position amongst undergraduate environmental programs in the U.S. The cap on admissions (20 to 25 students per year) has ensured that the program in the Environmental Sciences and Engineering Department attracts the very best students at UNC-CH.
The program joined formally with the Curriculum in Public Policy Analysis (PUPA) in 1996 to form a track in Environmental Sciences and Policy. The track serves the needs of students who will work as scientists, but probably will do that work within a policy setting. Students are required to complete the degree in ESE, as well as a minor in PUPA tailored to a focus on environmental policy.
Directorship of the program passed to Dr. Francisco in 1996 when Dr. Crawford-Brown became more heavily involved in plans to expand activities in the Institute for Environmental Sciences. Dr. Francisco then brought about some important administrative changes, creating an advisory board of between 7 and 10 ESE faculty and dividing students amongst these advisors. At the same time, the requirement of the senior thesis was dropped, with students instead being encouraged to conduct an honors thesis (essentially all students already qualified for the honors program). In all other respects, however, the program remains what it was designed to be in 1990: an intensive study of the links between the fundamental sciences and environmental phenomena, built to meet the needs of some of the most talented students at UNC-CH.
What lies ahead for the program? Its fate is linked closely to the development of a campus-wide program in Environmental Sciences and in Environmental Studies, directed through the new Carolina Environmental Program. This new program will offer much larger majors on campus, cutting across all of the disciplines which contribute to understanding the environment. It is likely that ESEs role in undergraduate education will remain in place even within this new system, although it probably will evolve to focus more strongly on the application of environmental science to issues of public health. This will allow it to draw on the much larger resources of the Carolina Environmental program, while returning it to its original mission of preparing students to examine environmental issues in the context of public health.
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Department of Environmental Sciences