Interview with Dr. Gail Grabowsky, Chaminade University

Interview with Dr. Gail Grabowsky, Chaminade University

Dr. Gail Grabowsky, Director
Environmental Studies Program, Chaminade University

1) What kind of students major in Environmental Studies?

I find that at Chaminade -- which is one of THE most diverse schools in the country (we make it into Newsweek for this quality!) -- that there about three "types" of students who major in Environmental Studies. (1) Students from Micronesia and American Samoa who really live IN nature still and come from ecocentric cultures in which nature features prominently in their worldview. These students simply KNOW the value and joy of nature. Many are worried -- seeing reef fish dwindle, trash becoming a problem and development creating urban "slums." (2) Students from Hawaii who know nature, play in nature, perhaps collect flowers for lei or fish frequently who know that the amount of forested areas, the health of reefs, etc. are on the decline. These students want to protect that which they used traditionally and that on which they know our tourism-based economy depends. The Hawaiians have a tradition of "malama aina" -- taking care of the land. They believe that if you take care of it, it will take care of you. Many students feel that we really need to develop carefully (if at all) and bring back or protect old values. (3) Mainland students who are aware of all the "classic" enviro issues: endangered species, air and water pollution, global warming, need to recycle. These students come with a global perspective and a lot of passion to fix what is obviously broken. I love all three of these populations. Together they make it a JOY to teach at Chaminade and they learn so much from each others' enviro concerns.

2) Is the broad and interdisciplinary nature of an Environmental Studies degree too generalized to have useful applications in jobs out in the field? Why or why not?

Yes -- a bit. I do worry about how broad the degree is. BUT, environmental issues are supremely interdisciplinary and so I believe that we have chosen the lesser of two evils. Over-specialization would result by requiring students just major in, say, environmental science or environmental policy, etc. Students majoring in such narrow fields will lack a clear big picture understanding of environemntal issues and solutions. I encourage my students to always have at least a minor and/or preferrably a second major if they can handle it. This gives the breadth and depth.

3) What kinds of jobs are available to ES graduates? What kinds of companies are specifically looking for ES graduates?

There are graduate programs now in environmental studies that emphasize policy or economics. There is law school. There are many jobs in enviromental NGO's and in the public enviro sector where an enviro studies degree is fine. Again though, I encourage my students to also have a focus borne out through a second major or minor. I also think its REAL important to talk enviro careers with them early on -- expose them to the vast variety of careers -- because students don't know whats out there and the jobs are ALL over the place in our "industry."

4) How can Environmental Studies students gain an edge in the post-graduation job market? What's the best way to land a job with an ES degree?

Be broad, be experienced with hands-on service, research and internships. Know the people and enviro orgs and opportunities in your area -- educate the students about jobs in their area or have them look into this themselves. An enviro studies degree is the liberal arts degree of the enviro field! And liberal arts majors do well on the job market -- they are flexible, creative, can handle diversity and integration. I feel that is way better than being specialized. Sure, we'll always need engineers and scientists, but we need people who LINK it all together and understand IT ALL because these are the people who will be able to devise real-world systems-based solutions.

5) Do you have any advice for prospective students entering an Environmental Studies program?

Always be learning about: what the issues are, the many causes of each issue, where issues are and what kinds of careers are out there. Perhaps invent a new career where a new need is arrising: Reef Restoration, Urban Restoration, who knows!

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