Sonoma State offering new major this semester

Beginning this school year, Sonoma State has introduced a new major, called GEP. GEP stands for Geography, Environment, and Planning. This new major merged the Geography department and the Environmental Studies department into one. The university described one of the major’s goals as striving to “bridge the natural and social sciences in order to produce more holistic and systemic analysis.” 

Jeff Baldwin, the GEP’s department chair, explained it was both department’s choice to merge and create the new major. “We were both facing resource scarcity in terms of faculty. We also had a lot of students that were minoring in each others majors. We noticed there were many similarities in the two. Both departments study environmental relationships” Baldwin said. The new major will provide more resources and flexibility for students, including a wider range of classes and class sections. Students who were previously enrolled in the old Geography or Environmental Studies majors can make the decision to stay in the old majors or join the new track. 

Currently, the major has just short of 300 students enrolled. Baldwin anticipates it growing larger. He explains that the Environmental Studies and Planning major was greatly impacted before, but with the new resources from the merger students will feel confident they can graduate in four years. “I hope the major is difficult not in the way that students have difficulty graduating, but in that the coursework is rigorous and that students are learning as much as they can.” Baldwin says. 

The major has five different concentrations: planning for sustainable communities concentration, geospatial science and technology concentration, environmental systems concentration society, environment and development concentration, and sustainable communities concentration. 

Baldwin himself teaches the popular GEP 206, Society Environment, and Sustainable Development. He also recommends a new class called Watershed Modeling. “The class will get students to understand how watersheds work. They will also be able to use digital interfaces to do modeling and analysis of watersheds.” 

The university hired two new faculty for the department. The department now has 10 tenure track faculty. “This is a clear example of the new resources that will benefit the department,” Baldwin said. 

The new department will be concentrating on five areas of focus: “human-environment conflict and collaboration, building resilience with environmental systems, the application of geospatial and quantitative analyses to solving complex environmental and societal problems, management and planning for community and environmental sustainability, and urban planning.” Baldwin emphasizes that there are many jobs that can arise from the new GEP major. “Jobs with this major relate to human and environment relationships. There are all kinds of position for this, whether it be urban, wildlife, or rural.” Baldwin also says he’s had lots of students go into national and regional park services, tourism, as well as the wine industry. “Some students have also worked internationally, we do have a global focus. Baldwin states one of the main department goals in sustainability. “Many of our classes focus on sustainable development. Another one of our main goals is global awareness, particularly in our global studies program. 

The new GEP department stated their mission is to “prepare students for careers in environmental professions, for graduate studies, and for their role as informed and thoughtful global citizens.”