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May 01, 2003
Two windmills in the water
Jonathan Matthews

A pair of off-shore windmills.

A curriculum that includes touring windmill farms in the UK? How about scaling New Zealand's Southern Alps, scuba diving in the Florida Keys, or camping along the Colorado River?

That's all in a day's work for students involved in the interdisciplinary courses sponsored by the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences' Center for Advanced Undergraduate Study and Experience (CAUSE).

Groups of CAUSE students have traveled locally, nationally, and globally to explore complex science, engineering, and social science issues. One group went to Lancaster County, a rapidly growing part of Pennsylvania, to study greenhouse gas emissions. Another group traversed the globe, landing in New Zealand to get up close and personal with natural hazards like volcanoes, earthquakes, and mudslides. CAUSE students have donned snorkels and scuba gear to for a first hand look at the demise of coral reefs in the Florida Keys. Other CAUSE seminars have focused on health and economic policy in Appalachia, global warming, and most recently, energy choices for the future.

The College of Earth and Mineral Sciences (EMS) created the Center for Advanced Undergraduate Study and Experience in the early 1990s to promote interdisciplinary, problem-based learning opportunities for undergraduates. The centerpiece of CAUSE is a multi-semester seminar that allows students to do theme-based research both in the classroom and out in the field. The field study usually takes place during semester breaks. Students pick their own research projects and work in small groups.

Almost every year, EMS faculty propose CAUSE seminar topics to Robert Crane, associate dean for education in EMS and director of CAUSE. Crane chooses an interdisciplinary topic that will attract a diverse group of student applicants. Finding a good mix of minds is important because one of the overall goals of CAUSE, according to Crane, is "to confront the interrelated scientific and societal issues surrounding the interactions between society, the environment, and technology."

To learn more about CAUSE, visit the EMS website or contact the office of the associate dean for education in EMS, 865-7482, amm9@psu.edu.

Last Updated May 01, 2003