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Undergraduate Environmental Scholars Program Inaugurated

By Krista L. Niece
Associate news Editor

Undergraduates interested in environmental issues can now enroll in the recently created Environmental Scholars Program.

The new program is designed to be an undergraduate analog to the Martin Fellows for Sustainability, an honor society for graduate students working on environmental issues. Like the graduate program, it will be under the auspices of the Council for the Environment, a division of the MIT Center for Environmental Initiatives.

The idea for expanding the Martin Fellows concept to the undergraduate level came from an interested student, said Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering Rafael L. Bras '72, who is coordinating the start of the program. "The idea had been considered before," but had not been implemented.

Group dinners and discussions like those arranged for the Martin Fellows group will take place every six weeks. Bras hopes that these will be as successful as the Martin Fellows dinners, whose past speakers have included Professor Sheila Widnall '60, former secretary of the Air Force and Roberto Lenton, director of environment and sustainability of the United Nations Development Program.

"I'm excited about it," said Bras. "It's an opportunity to come together have some fun, have some good food, and do some good work."

Participants in the new program will also have the opportunity to attend meetings of the Alliance for Global Sustainability, a partnership between Tokyo, Switzerland, and MIT. Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program opportunities with the Martin Scholars will be available.

Bras anticipates the selection of approximately 15 Environmental Scholars this year. Selection will be made by Council for the Environment members on the basis of a one-page personal statement, a list of courses taken and grades received, and a faculty recommendation. The application deadline is Nov. 30.

Selection to the program is for two consecutive terms. The Environmental Scholars for the calendar year 1999 will be notified by Dec. 15.

"We're looking for interesting people, we're looking for people who are seriously interested in their work," said Bras. "We want people with an honest interest in environmental and sustainability issues it's not a society where you put your name down and don't show up."

Bras emphasized the interdisciplinary nature of the program. He and the other members of the Council for the Environment hope to attract not only students who have chosen the environment as a focus of their major, but students "from engineers to humanities majors."

Bras hopes that the new program will "promote an integrated view" of global sustainability and help to raise awareness of "environmental issues [that] are here to stay."

"[MIT] has a long way to go to fully adopt a concern for sustainability in all our departments and disciplines."