This spring semester, we are welcoming both a new course and professor into our St. Kate’s community. Adway De, PhD, is an analyst for the Conservation Improvement Program (CIP) for the Minnesota Department of Commerce, Division of Energy Resources. He completed his PhD in economics from the University of Minnesota. De has led efforts to develop the “Environmental Economics and Policy” course as an adjunct professor. He has worked in collaboration with Kristine West, PhD, an associate professor of economics who has long advocated for the integration of this topic into the department’s available coursework. Additionally, the class has been developed in partnership with the Assistantship Mentorship Program (AMP) and the work of teacher’s assistant, Sydney Kennedy, a third year, undergraduate biology and public policy student. And now, following months of planning, this course is launching within our Economics and Political Science Department.
This class is seeking to understand environmental issues, such as pollution, energy policy, and climate change through key economic principles and the broader approach of quantitative social science to analyze environmental policy. Additionally, there is a prominent component of critically analyzing racial inequities and distributional outcomes, given this is inherently related to understanding of ecological issues. For example, particular attention will be paid to the impact of segregation policies of the past and their effect on present day inequities like access to clean air, water and energy.
Furthermore, environmental issues are fundamentally difficult to approach through a singular framework, therefore an interdisciplinary lens is required. So, although this course will be grounded within economics, it will be impossible to discuss these issues without the use of political science, sociology, biology, psychology and a host of related disciplines.
Therefore, the course's mission truly calls upon our guiding principles of St. Kates: social justice and the power of a liberal arts education — the reason so many of our students have long sought a class of this nature.
Moreover, using his expertise and connections at the Minnesota Department of Commerce, De has integrated numerous guest lecturers within the course’s curriculum, to broaden its scope through real-world contextualization by professionals active in the field. For example, Lucy Taylor and Heather Westra from the Prairie Island Indian Community will speak about their relationship with the nuclear power plant in their backyard and how they are using environmental policies to fight back. Additionally, the class will hear from Steven Gorg, an air data analysis unit supervisor at the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, who will discuss the complexities of pollution across the Twin Cities. And Richard Graves will speak, as the director at the Center for Sustainable Building Research, concerning sustainable development in our building infrastructure, to name only a few of the incredible lecturers the class will have the privilege of hearing from this semester. This will provide students an excellent opportunity to network and connect with stakeholders outside the classroom.
The hope for Environmental Economics this semester is to not only educate students about environmentalism through a liberal arts and social justice lens, but ultimately to spur further conversations in sustainability within the St. Kate’s community. There has never before been as critical a need for education surrounding environmentalism, and it is a promising step toward action that St. Catherine University has pushed for a course such as this.
If you have further questions about this Environmental Economics and Policy contact Adway De, PhD.