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Table of Contents

on-line story logoEnvironmental Studies: New Major, Real-world Research
One of our first interdisciplinary programs gets its own stand-alone major

Global Vision:
A new major is rather worldly

Home and Away: Adirondack Semester
Our newest off-campus program is our nearest

Field Days: Integrated Science Education Initiative
Redefining how we teach the sciences

University Fellows Program
Student-professor partnerships open new horizons in learning

Alumni Accomplishments

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on-line story logoEnvironmental Studies: New Major, Real-World Research

When St. Lawrence announced it would spend $2 million over the next several years to renovate and refurbish student residential spaces, Brian Banton '00 and Michael Newton '00 saw an opportunity to make a difference at the University through their academic work.

What's the connection? Professor of Environmental Studies Alan Schwartz's spring seminar, where students research options for making life at St. Lawrence more environmentally friendly.

Schwartz notes that this type of "real-world" research has been a hallmark of the environmental studies program since its beginning in the 1970s as a combined interdisciplinary major. This fall, the program became a separate, stand-alone department, meaning that students may now major in environmental studies without combining it with a major from another department, although the combined major option with anthropology, biology, chemistry, economics, English (also new), geology, government, philosophy, psychology or sociology continues.

Banton and Newton had participated in a study undertaken by the seminar on the types of paper used in campus copy machines that resulted in the University making a deal with a supplier to buy paper with a higher post-consumer recycled content. (Read more about that project here.) When they found out about the dorm renovation project, they proposed researching interior paints, an idea embraced by Director of Facilities Operations Claude Banker.

"I thought it was a great idea," Banker says. "I was more than happy to have them research this for us, and impressed by their professional approach to the project."

Both students researched paints to determine if the University could use products that would be less harmful to both the health of painters and building inhabitants and to the environment. They looked into the content of volatile organic compounds (VOCs), as well as a list of toxic organic and inorganic substances in a variety of products.

Their report included recommendations of several products, which Banker says paint crews experimented with. One aspect of using lower VOC products, he notes, is that they generally have fewer problems associated with odors and fumes, meaning that there is less disruption of work in buildings while painting is under way.

Cost of the recommended product was approximately 50 cents to $1 more per gallon, Banker says, but paint crews reported that it worked well in their tests. Over the summer, some 600 rooms on campus were painted with the product, including 400 in Dean-Eaton.

"From now on, that's the product we'll be using on campus to paint," Banker says. "I'm very grateful to the students for doing the research on this. I think it's terrific."

"My students have been very motivated and excited," Schwartz commented, "knowing that their research might have real consequences."

--Macreena Doyle