Interdisciplinary Enrichment

A River Runs through It

Students and faculty heading out on the annual Fall Float along the Saint Joseph River. 


Consider something as basic as water.

Then consider what happens when we explore water from a whole host of interdisciplinary perspectives.

A student in our environmental studies program does just that. She learns the physical and chemical properties of water and how water makes osmosis possible. She also strives to hold a drop of water in the deep time of evolutionary biology. She’ll engage in how water deepens the sacramental imagination of a spiritual journey, and she’ll grapple with how water is often at the heart of issues surrounding social and environmental justice on local and global scales. She’ll learn how some countries have human representatives to speak, in their governing bodies, for the rights of a river, and how she might, too, write policy that can contribute to substantial change in how we live on this shared planet—a planet facing large-scale climate change that impacts the intensity and frequency of hurricanes and floods. She’ll envision possible responses to climate change in the context of business and also in the context of the pressing moral dimension of being stewards of the planet. And future engineers might think through possible improvements to the flooding of buildings and cities. An ENVS major will explore the hydropoetics of Brenda Hillman and Emily Dickinson and recognize how, to paraphrase Shelley, our poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world, and she’ll also experiment with water and dye in the art of sustainable textiles.

As water courses through the courses of the environmental studies major, we can’t overlook how a river runs right past our campus as well!

Each fall, ENVS faculty and students invite the SMC community to join them on a Fall Float down the Saint Joseph River. Students in the environmental studies program have the opportunity to develop research projects as well that involve the river and/or any niche of the multiple ecosystems within and surrounding campus. The living classroom has the potential to ground and yet inspire student learning with hands on projects.

From developing empathy and understanding to recognizing how, from an ecological standpoint, this planet should be named “Water,” a student leaves the ENVS program ready to contribute insight through her ability to look at any given subject from a wide range of perspectives—and then to offer a response that leads us forward.

Sandhill Crane Migration Trip

Along with the Fall Float, each November, students and faculty have the opporutnity to head out to witness the sandhill crane migration. Interdisciplinary perspectives enrich the experience for all involved.