SF State launches new School of the Environment

Author: Strategic Marketing and Communications
August 18, 2023
Students and faculty out in a field on a cloudy day
Photo Credit: Andrew Oliphant

The school expands student opportunities to study environmental topics

SAN FRANCISCO – August 18, 2023 — San Francisco State University’s College of Science & Engineering (CoSE) launched a new School of the Environment (SotE) to meet the evolving needs of students studying and researching environmental topics.

The new school merges CoSE’s Departments of Earth & Climate Sciences and Geography & Environment with the Environmental Studies degree programs formerly in the School of Public Affairs & Civic Engagement. Three faculty from the programs will co-direct the new school until a new director is elected.

“It'll help us better serve our students because we’ll be able to work more collaboratively,” said Autumn Thoyre, one of three SotE co-directors. “In the past, we’d have students who were interested in the environment but didn't know which degree or career path to follow. We can guide them more effectively with this change.”

The undergraduate and graduate degrees and certificates of the three programs will now be housed in SotE but will remain unchanged at the founding. The graduation requirements for students currently in, or those who have applied to, the three programs as of Fall 2023 will be unaffected by the move. Over time, the school will continue to refine the degrees to best reflect the school’s mission and meet the needs of a wide-ranging and growing environmental workforce.

By merging the programs, SotE makes it easier for students to get the necessary advising to understand these different programs and find the one that best fits their interests. The new school will boost the faculty to student ratio and expand student opportunities. Students will have easier access to a larger variety of courses, scholarships and research experiences that were previously limited to one program. Some programs did not previously offer graduate degrees so SotE helps provide students a clearer path to master’s degrees.

The co-directors also look forward to starting fresh and building SotE from the ground up. It’s an opportunity to better incorporate social justice into the fabric of this school and build a stronger and more diverse environmental workforce, they explain.

“It's an opportunity to say we're going to put this at the forefront and at the foundation of what we're building. Let’s think about equity and justice and building a welcoming community. That's really different,” said SotE Co-Director Andrew Oliphant.

In the upcoming years, SotE hopes to evaluate current programs to establish new opportunities to meet the evolving needs for students’ academic and professional development.  

“Bringing together students and faculty from these different programs will create opportunities for interdisciplinary collaboration that will lead to exciting research possibilities and new career pathways for SF State students,” said SotE Co-Director Mary Leech. But the co-directors also acknowledge that there’s a lot of environmental work happening outside of SotE or any one college. They hope the new school will help build collaborations across this community and be another conduit for enhanced student opportunities. 

For more information about this change, visit the School of Environment’s website.