ER&M becomes stand-alone major

Students who wish to major in ethnicity, race and migration will no longer have to pursue it along with a second major.

Faculty voted at a Thursday Yale College faculty meeting to make ER&M a stand-alone major, as well as to split the biology major and modify the degree options in environmental engineering. Molecular, cellular and developmental biology and ecology and evolutionary biology will become separate majors, rather than tracks within one major, and environmental engineering has combined two different bachelor’s of science degrees.

The change to the ER&M major leaves only one major, South Asian studies, that must be taken as a double major. Previously, Yale has offered such majors in international studies, organismal biology and studies in the environment, according to data from the Yale College Publications Office.

“The faculty who propose new majors sometimes look upon this second-major-only status as a necessary phase to establish the major and ensure that there are enough courses and a sufficiently robust and well-structured curriculum to justify a student’s taking the program … as her or his only major,” Dean of Undergraduate Education Joseph Gordon said in a Tuesday email.

Just as ER&M is now a stand-alone major, global affairs was approved as a stand-alone major in 2010 to replace international studies, and studies in the environment became the stand-alone environmental studies major in 2001.

As a stand-alone major, ER&M will require all juniors in the major to take a new junior seminar. Pitti said the seminar will deepen students’ knowledge of the different methodologies used to study ethnicity, race and migration and also create a “cohort effect” so that students in the major get to know each other before senior year.

In another change, students in the major will have the opportunity to fulfill their senior requirement through a senior seminar paper rather than a senior thesis, he added.

Students could first major in ER&M major in 1997, but it remained on a trial basis that required regular review until until 2008, said Ezra Stiles College master Steven Pitti, who directs the ER&M program. Since then, its faculty and monetary resources have grown: Several faculty members have been tenured, and the program moved into a new location at 35 Broadway this year. Pitti said these changes made faculty in the program “feel confident” that they could sustain the program as a stand-alone major.

“We’ve been careful [in the past] about not promising a service that we were unsure we could actually provide,” Pitti said.

EB Saldana ’14 said she was “thrilled” to learn of ER&M’s new stand-alone status and intends to pursue it as her only major.

“[ER&M] was something I was interested in, but I wasn’t willing to continue it as a second major,” Saldana said, adding that she would have majored in American Studies if she was unable to do ER&M on its own.

Two other sophomores who are majoring in ER&M said they still plan to double major and will not be affected by the change. A fourth sophomore, Angelica Calabrese ’14, said she is considering double majoring in ER&M and anthropology but that having the option of doing ER&M by itself could be useful.

Faculty at Thursday’s meeting also voted to officially separate molecular, cellular and developmental biology and ecology and evolutionary biology into two majors.

The areas were made into two tracks within the biology major in 2001 but still operated independently, said Paul Turner, chair of the Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Department.

Turner said separating the two majors will simplify the process of changing requirements for degrees in biology. Currently, faculty in both the MCDB and E&EB departments must approve any changes to the biology major, he said.

In addition, the new E&EB major is likely to increase the flexibility of its requirements, Turner said. Within the biology major for current juniors and seniors, the E&EB track requires more courses than the MCDB track, but the number of requirements in the new majors will be more simlar, he said. Biology faculty are also discussing altering the introductory biology sequence and collaborating with the Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry Department on the course..

In environmental engineering, which currently offers two B.S. degrees — a B.S. in environmental engineering and a B.S. in engineering sciences (environmental) — and a B.A. degree, the two B.S. degrees will be merged into one.

Paul Van Tassel, chair of the Chemical and Environmental Engineering Department, said having two rather than three degree options will “more closely match the career goals” of students in the major. The new version of the B.S. degree will also align more closely with internationally recognized ABET-accredited engineering degrees, which may allow the department to pursue accreditation for it in the future, Van Tassel added.

Because there are less than four faculty members in environmental engineering, having fewer degree options also ensure that there will be faculty available to teach all the required classes, said Jordan Peccia, director of undergraduate studies for environmental engineering.

The votes approved changes endorsed by the Committee on Majors earlier this year.

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