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Mellon Foundation Grant Supports Environmental Studies

Posted on Monday, June 13, 2005

Renewed grant will fund student research and other initiatives

Hobart and William Smith Colleges have received a renewed grant of $300,000 from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to further develop and enhance the Environmental Studies program and the Finger Lakes Institute.

The grant, to be dispersed over the next three years, will allow HWS to embark upon several new projects that will strengthen the Colleges' existing environmental programs. This includes initiating a Geographic Information Systems (GIS) Specialist position within the Finger Lakes Institute. The new hire will provide the technological expertise needed to train students, support faculty and help delineate environmental priorities for the Finger Lakes region.

"This is an exciting new position to add to the Institute," says Finger Lakes Institute Director Marion Balyszak. "The GIS will enhance our abilities to assess and prioritize future strategies to protect the Finger Lakes."

The grant will also help fund new opportunities for student research and experiential learning by initiating the Finger Lakes Institute Undergraduate Fellows Program, a summer research program at the Finger Lakes Institute. Attached to this program will be the Finger Lakes Regional Annual Student Symposium on environmental issues, which is designed to allow undergraduate and graduate students to present their findings about the Finger Lakes.

"The Symposium opens important lines of communication between students," says John Halfman, director of the HWS Environmental Studies program. "It allows researchers to find out what everyone else is working on. Ideally, the Student Symposium encourages the students' advisers to present, as well."

In addition, funds will be allocated for minority scholarships for the Environmental Studies Summer Youth Institute program (ESSYI), making it possible for them to attend the Institute.

"The perspectives of the minority students who come here from New York City and other urban areas often challenge the sometimes idealistic environmental perspective of more affluent students who grew up in suburbia, which is a significant learning experience.

ESSYI also provides students with an opportunity to explore topics or problems from multiple perspectives in ways that challenge their current understandings of environmental issues," says Professor James MaKinster, assistant professor of education and assistant director of ESSYI.

The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation began its generous support of the Colleges' environmental programs in 2000, making this the second 3-year grant awarded to Hobart and William Smith. Past Mellon Foundation supported initiatives have included the addition of new environmental studies faculty, summer research opportunities and enhancements of existing educational outreach programs.

The Hobart and William Smith Colleges Environmental Studies program combines the excellent local environmental resources and the Colleges' rich history of interdisciplinary teaching and works to address the environmental issues. Founded in 2002, the Finger Lakes Institute is dedicated to the promotion of environmental research and education about the Finger Lakes and its surrounding environments. In collaboration with regional environmental partners and state and local government offices, the Institute fosters environmentally-sound development practices throughout the region, and disseminates the accumulated knowledge to the general public.

Hobart and William Smith Colleges are coordinate, private, liberal arts institutions. The Colleges have one of the nation's top study abroad programs and are noted for their dedication to community service. Home to three Rhodes Scholars, Hobart and William Smith provide an interdisciplinary education intended to better inform both professional and intellectual pursuits, where learning is reinforced through on-campus academic centers and initiatives such as the Finger Lakes Institute, the Fisher Center for the Study of Women and Men and the President's Forum Lecture Series. A full 75 percent of HWS science students are engaged in some form of undergraduate research; many have their research published or present their findings before professional and trade organizations such as the National Conference for Undergraduate Research.

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