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The BG News
BG24 Newscast
November 30, 2023

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Geography and geology form new school

There’s a new school on campus, and it’s called the School of Earth, Environment and Society.

This new school, which has been in effect since July 1 of this academic year, is made up of the University’s geology and geography departments and the environmental program.

SEES is a school like the College of Arts and Sciences is a school, said new school director Charles Onasch.

The formal proposal for the program was submitted in the summer of 2006 and the Board of Trustees approved it in May this year.

The school was created because a number of faculty in the three disciplines share common interests and all three use the same rapidly growing geospatial technology, which consists of remote sensing, GPS and Geographic Information Systems.

The new school, which has 22 faculty members and instructors, puts an emphasis on interdisciplinary studies. This means the geology, geography and environmental program all work together throughout research and teaching.

Onasch said a complex problem cannot be solved with only one discipline.

He also said the top 10 universities in the nation have interdisciplinary studies, such as the University of Michigan, Columbia University and Stanford. Although these schools were not BGSU’s model, Onasch said they are examples of other successful programs.

Joe Frizado, associate geology professor, said the new school would make it easier for students to look at spatial problems.

Geology students are more concerned with the physical environment, whereas geography students deal with the social side of the situation, such as societal impact, and the environment fits in perfectly, Frizado said.

“As long as you’re interacting with other people on the face of this Earth, it’s a spatial issue,” he said.

The new school allows students to look at all sides of the equation.

Onasch gave the example of Hurricane Katrina. Researchers look at the weather, the geology of the area, the engineering levy aspect, environmental damage and the human impact.

There are currently course proposals in motion that would have the SEES prefix and students can expect to see a Master of Science in geospatial science or a Bachelor of Science for the school in the future.

“Our biggest hurdle is that our school is still located in three different buildings,” Onasch said.

The new school is saving the University money by paying one director instead of three separate ones, but could save even more money if the three self-sufficient facilities were combined.

He said there has been discussion of building a new science building sometime in the near future and after some reorganization maybe at least two of the three disciplines would be in the same facility.

The school will prosper when they are all in one place, Onasch said.

Enrique Gomezdelcampo, assistant professor of the center for environmental programs and geology, is a member of two of the three units. He said this gives him a unique perspective since he knows people in two areas and how the areas operate.

He would like the divisions between the units to disappear in the next few years and encourages students to be curious about what the other units do or what classes they offer.

Frizado plans to get high school students interested in the new school through e-mail.

High school students who take the ACT or SAT and express interest in one of the three fields of study will be sent a personal Web site address that is tailored to their interests as much as possible so they can look at what the new school has to offer.

Frizado said the best way to reach 17-year-olds is through the Internet.

They use a similar program with prospective grad students and usually see 60 percent of the students come back to the site within the first three days and 25 percent visit repeatedly after that.

The e-mails are going out next week, and Frizado is unsure what the result will be, but he wouldn’t be surprised if there was some avid student interest.

Students on campus can learn about this new school from their advisors, campus activities or publications.

Frizado wants students to know that the school is there and that it is one of those things that can make them different from the other graduates that are only focused on finishing their specific degrees.

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