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Careers in environmental studies were once considered niche, but now an emerging job market for professionals with experience in corporate social responsibility and sustainability has pushed this training to the mainstream.

York University in Toronto is adapting to this demand with the Faculty of Environmental and Urban Change (EUC), a new addition to its roster of 11 faculties.

The EUC merges the former Faculty of Environmental Studies and geography department, and will provide a suite of new undergraduate and advanced degree programs in 2021, including environmental and arts justice, global geography, and sustainable environmental management.

“We want to offer some real flexibility for students to get not just fundamental environmental knowledge, but also to specialize in different areas,” said Dean Alice Hovorka, who previously spent two years as dean of the former environment faculty.

Faculty of Environmental and Urban Change Dean Alice Hovorka. Photo by York University

With an emphasis on interdisciplinary and hands-on learning, the school will prime students for careers pathways in fields such as wildlife biology, natural resource conservation, waste management, and economic development, among others, Hovorka said.

The new faculty “will position York University as a higher education leader in sustainability, environmental issues and the challenges that arise from intense urbanization,” said York President and Vice-Chancellor Rhonda L. Lenton, in a news release.

For the last three years, the university has also offered a semester abroad program in May and June, at the Las Nubes eco-campus in southern Costa Rica.

Given travel restrictions related to the COVID-19 pandemic, the program is on hold until at least next year, but the school is working in collaboration with educators in Costa Rica to create documentary films that explore the biological diversity and conservation efforts in the area. They are also working on making other elements of the program virtual.

Lillian Meighan Wright Centre on York University's EcoCampus in the rainforest of Costa Rica. Photo by York University

Vjosa Isai / Local Journalism Initiative / Canada's National Observer