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Climate Studies at Santa Fe Community College

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Monday, 3 February 2014
Hall C3 (The Georgia World Congress Center )
Amanda A. Evans, Santa Fe Community College, Santa Fe, NJ; and L. Gannes

Attending the AMS Climate Studies Workshop in Washington DC last May was an incredible experience. Being exposed to such knowledgeable presenters was invaluable to be able to hear their experiences and have a chance to interact with them. Hearing how seriously they take climate change and also, how personally frightened they are about what we are doing to the planet, gave the need to act on climate change even more of an urgency. This really underlined the value of the AMS Climate Studies class to students throughout the country as we need to have an educated public to be able to take meaningful action. The field trips were fascinating, particularly being able to go to the NOAA Climate Forecasting Center to see scientists at work forecasting the weather. Talking with the person who actually predicted the Kansas tornados earlier in the week was an experience I will not forget. I also was so pleased to be able to go to the field trip to the Beltsville Center for Climate System Observations where we saw graduate students working on climate related projects, putting their studies into practice. I wish students at community colleges could have that experience so they can directly see the value of science education and where it could lead them. They need to realize how fascinating and important the jobs are that trained scientists do. I also found the trip to NASA Goddard and the huge wall of videos so engaging. It's a pity there isn't a wall like that in every campus common area as it grabs your attention and is a teaching device that is extremely effective. The Science on a Sphere, or something like it, would also be on my wish-list for every campus. One of the best parts of the class was the chance to have conversations with other faculty, learning how they intend to implement the course, their ideas and their experiences. The panel discussion by faculty already teaching the course was particularly helpful. At Santa Fe Community College we plan to implement the AMS Climate Studies class in spring 2014. Currently I am talking with the new Dean of our Science Department and the new Dean of the Sustainability Department to see where it would best fit. We have just gone through a campus reorganization so could not start these conversations until July where the new Deans started work. Santa Fe Community College has more than 46% Hispanic population and 70% of first year students are on PELL grants. Thus our demographic is one where students feel the effects of climate change, being exposed to higher food prices from the local and national droughts with little economic buffer to help them. Many Santa Feans (and college students' families) have small vegetable gardens that have been drying up in the heat these last few years. They are already experiencing a small part of what is to come, and most of them are aware of it. Santa Fe is a progressive city we have signed on to the 2030 Challenge and our mayor has signed on to the Mayoral challenge to diversify city investments away from fossil fuel. Students that come to Santa Fe Community College also tend to be very interested in sustainability and climate change issues so I think we have a great ready-made audience for the class. We are also a signatory to the American College and University Presidents' Commitment to Climate Change. I look forward to the next few months as we decide the best home for this class and anticipate it will be one in which are students have a lot of interest.