Introducing environmental science to a growing number of undergraduates


Hannah CarrollHannah Carroll is currently teaching her largest group of incoming environmental science undergraduates. This year, fifty students are participating in the Science of the Environment and Sustainable Systems (SoESS) Learning Community. And each of them are taking Carroll's EnSci 202 course.

The SoESS Learning Community is a two-semester, residential learning team for entering and continuing Environmental Science freshman and sophomore students. More than 70% of first-year students take part in the more than 80 learning communities at ISU.

These are small groups of students that take one or more classes together and may live in the same residence hall. Learning communities make a large campus feel smaller. They create a supportive network of students, peer mentors, and professors and help students get know people that share their interests.

SoESS kicks off the year with a service learning project. They also take three weekly courses as a group. These include EnSci 110 and 202 in the Fall and EnSci 203 in the Spring.

EEOB alumnus Lauren Sullivan and David Green taught the beginnings of the SoESS Learning Community. Sullivan created EnSci 202 and Green taught a companion class. The two were combined and revamped to accommodate the growing number of students. When Sullivan first began teaching the course, there were fewer than five students. Carroll took over EnSci 202 four years ago and continued to revamp the class as the program expanded.

"We talk about what it means to be an environmental scientist. We want them to know right off the bat what they are getting into, so they can find a path that works for them," said Carroll. "We do a lot of what it means to be a scientist in general, and in the environmental sciences specifically. I bring in panels of graduate students to talk about their experiences. I also bring in a panel of people from outside academia to talk about what other options are like if you don't want the graduate school path."

In the spring semester, students continue with Carroll into EnSci 203. In this course, they begin developing their critical thinking and scientific thinking skills.

Carroll says, "We go over how to tell science from pseudo-science. We do a lot of work on how to read scientific papers. We work in readings that I consider fundamental literature in the field."

These two courses have been a major success for the environmental science program. And Carroll continues to develop and teach these courses as she pursues her Ph.D., working with Dr. Lynn Clark and Dr. Al Wanamaker in the area of paleoecology. And if that's not enough, she is also well known for her willingness to help other graduate students with their R-coding needs.