Edited and updated from the original by Keith Bonin and Robert Browne, November 12, 2020.
In 1994 as the crisp air of fall settled into the Wake Forest University campus, five faculty members began meeting to create an environmental program. The initial group was human geographer John Litcher (who worked in the Department of Education), biologist Robert Browne, and chemist Dilip Kondepudi; they soon invited physicist Keith Bonin and anthropologist Ned Woodall to join them. Through the course of their conversations they set their goal: a new interdisciplinary minor in Environmental Studies (ES).
The faculty members planned an ES minor with an equal distribution of courses among the humanities and the sciences. They saw the interdisciplinarity of Wake Forest’s liberal arts core as their strength, and, with Dr. Litcher coordinating and joined by economist Dan Hammond, they began to build the minor. Meeting throughout 1994 and 1995 they compiled environmental courses and threaded them together with an introductory course. With a curriculum proposal in place and the support of the Dean of the College and history professor Paul Escott (1995-2004), in 1995 the faculty of the College approved the ES minor.
The Environmental Studies Minor began at Wake in the fall of 1996. The inaugural cohort of students was comprised of fifteen undergraduates, seven women and eight men. Their courses included the intro course taught by Dr. Browne and economics of natural resources by Dr. Hammond; the new physics and chemistry of the environment was initiated by Dr. Kondepudi and Dr. Bonin in spring 1997. English professors Gillian Overing and Gale Segal joined the faculty group within two years. In these early years, a significant amount of guidance was provided to the group by Ken Addison, Supernumerary Fellow in Physical Geography, St Peter’s College, Oxford and Director of Oxford Summer Programmes. He would fly to Wake almost annually to provide input, review the Environmental Studies program, and to lecture on an Environmental topic. The environmental commitment of this initial group of professors is revealed by the fact that they taught the ES courses as overloads, in addition to their regular teaching.
Today the Environment and Sustainability Studies (ENV) Program includes over seventy faculty members from across the University, offers two majors and two minors, and has just shy of 100 undergraduate majors and minors. In addition, the ENV Program is part of a robust university ecosystem on the environment, which includes the research Center for Energy, Environment, and Sustainability and the Office of Sustainability.