Our Critical Future Leaders
In recent years, the number of high school seniors interested in pursuing careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) has dropped substantially, along with the share of students graduating with STEM undergraduate degrees. Two signature UNC Institute for the Environment initiatives aim to reverse those trends.
Increasing Diversity and Enhancing Academia (IDEA) enrolls motivated and talented undergraduate students to work with Carolina faculty on cutting-edge science and participate in graduate school preparation seminars, in fields like geography and environmental sciences. A high school component works with students interested in earth, atmospheric or marine sciences, inspiring them to turn their interests into studies, or even a career.
Building on IDEA, the Climate Leadership and Energy Awareness Program (Climate LEAP) engages 9th-12th grade students in learning about climate and energy as well as solutions to move us toward a low-carbon future. Topics such as human-health impact and community resilience are explored in new and innovative ways to ignite a lifelong passion for environmental stewardship.
Sites Set on Education
The UNC Institute for the Environment has joined the UNC Curriculum for the Environment and Ecology to establish a network of field sites in North Carolina, such as Highlands, Morehead City and the Outer Banks, as well as in Ecuador and Thailand. Undergraduate students participate in semester-long programs, choosing from six diverse locations that offer a rich variety of research and community outreach opportunities.
through coursework, field trips, group research projects and internships with local organizations. Host communities help shape the curriculum at each site, and our faculty and students share their research results with community partners.
These field sites provide a valuable complement to on-campus education and fulfill UNC’s experiential education requirement for graduation. We need support to increase student access by offering scholarships to offset expenses not covered by student fees and to enhance programmatic operations.
“I wanted an opportunity to get more hands-on experience and physical involvement in what I’m learning in a typical classroom setting. As a science major, I also wanted to see what field work and independent research would be like. The program so far has already given me ample opportunities for me to explore not only the area and nature but personal interests in terms of what I may or may not enjoy in a future career. Shark tagging was certainly a neat experience, along with watching my first sea turtle excavation this evening – a dream come true! There is much to learn, from the amazing professors to the surrounding marshes and islands with beautiful horses on them.” – Hannah Lee Slep ’18 on her experience at the Morehead City, N.C., Field Site.