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PitE 20th Anniversary


Happy 20th Anniversary, PitE!

The Program in the Environment’s history goes back much further than PitE’s 20th Anniversary Celebration might indicate. The University of Michigan has always been a pioneer of ground-breaking environmental education and research, from being the first university in the United States to offer
courses in forestry in 1881 to its current extensive cross-campus programming that brings together a wide range of disciplines to solve today’s most pressing environmental and sustainability challenges.

The natural sciences have been well represented on Michigan’s campus since the early 20th century.  Nevertheless, the environmental movement of the 1960s that prompted the first Earth Day in 1970 catalyzed new directions in environmental curricula.  SEAS, which was then called the School of Natural Resources, offered a BS degree in Natural Resources that focused on environmental science.  Meanwhile, the Residential College, which is housed within the College of Literature, Science and the Arts (LSA), also began introducing interdisciplinary environmental courses.  Interest in these programs continued to grow as greater numbers of faculty and students across campus became more involved in studying environmental problems.  In 1992, the cross-campus initiative in Global Change was launched, which developed innovative and interdisciplinary undergraduate coursework and a minor that integrated the science of global environmental change with strategies for effective economic development and resource management.

The Program in the Environment was formed in 2002, in part to help coalesce and synergize the various environmental undergraduate offerings on campus. As a jointly managed degree program between the SEAS and LSA, PitE offers students a broad liberal arts major that emphasizes critical
thinking, problem-solving, communication, and forming connections across a range of topics and disciplines. Over the years, PitE has developed four additional minors in Sustainability, Food, Energy Science & Policy, and Water to the original Environment major and minor. The PitE curriculum offers students a wide variety of coursework and experiences to pursue their passion for environmental issues.  Over the years, students have taken courses at the BioStation, Camp Davis, study abroad programs ranging from Tanzania to New Zealand, or spending semesters in Detroit or Washington DC. What started as a relatively small undergraduate program of 50 students has flourished over the past twenty years, with an undergraduate population of approximately 350 majors and 350 minors.  

Faculty associated with the program has also grown tremendously over the past two decades, with over 50 faculty affiliated with PitE. Showcasing its reach and breadth, PitE has faculty that are jointly appointed in six schools and colleges across the university (SEAS, LSA, Engineering, Public Health, Urban Planning, and Art & Design) from 14 different disciplinary units.



Join us for our 20th Anniversary Celebration on Thursday, September 29 from 5:00 - 7:00 PM. Click here for more details.