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Program in Environmental Studies will expand Vassar's study of South Asia through prestigious Mellon Grant

POUGHKEEPSIE, NY – Vassar College has been awarded a four-year $630,000 grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation’s Liberal Arts Colleges Program, to advance the study of South Asia in the college’s Environmental Studies program. The Mellon Foundation’s key support will be for a new tenured scholar of the environmental history of South Asia, and its grant will also help make possible additions to the Environmental Studies curriculum, new library resources, research, and related travel.

Vassar takes a multidisciplinary approach to environmental studies, involving the natural sciences, social sciences, arts, and humanities, and approximately 40 professors from virtually every department on campus.

The new Vassar faculty member will be based in the history department, and will teach courses cross-listed in the curriculum for environmental studies, history, and Asian studies – including an introductory course on environmental history, an intermediate course on the history of India, and an advanced seminar on South Asian environmental history.

In addition to seeking expertise in the history of environmental movements in South Asia, Vassar will also be looking for a scholar whose interests may include the history of agriculture and land tenure, dam building and other large-scale environmental interventions, as well as colonial or national policies on medicine or disease control.

“The history department has long needed a South Asian historian, and we are delighted that the Mellon grant gives us ‘two for one’ by enabling us to hire a historian in the cutting-edge field of environmental history,” said Rebecca Edwards, chair of the department of history, a member of the Environmental Studies faculty, and a lead author of the Mellon grant proposal.


The program explores relationships between people and their environments -- natural, built by man, and social. As part of that exploration, the curriculum describes and analyzes natural systems, histories of interspecies and species-environment relationships, aesthetic portrayals of nature, and ethical issues raised by human participation in the natural environment. Graduates of the program go on to pursue urban ecology, environmental policy, public health, environmental education, consulting, agriculture, and journalism, among a variety of professional directions.


More than 125 liberal arts colleges benefit either through direct grants from the Liberal Arts Colleges Program, or support the program provides through various consortia and associations. Like the foundation’s other higher education grant programs, the Liberal Arts Colleges Program regards the humanities, arts, and humanistic social sciences as its primary domain of interest. In general, the program’s grants are aimed at providing additional research and professional opportunities for faculty members, strengthening the academic infrastructure of the liberal arts college, and assisting colleges as they review and refurbish their curricular offerings.

Vassar College is a highly selective, coeducational, independent, residential liberal arts college founded in 1861.

Posted by Office of Communications Wednesday, November 12, 2008