Creating Curriculum to Meet Community Needs: How the Earth and Environmental Sciences Program Used Its Curriculum Grant


In this interview, we hear about how the doctoral program in Earth and Environmental Sciences applied their curriculum grant to develop a new certificate program in Environmental Justice. Professor Monica Varsanyi, Professor Kieren Howard, and doctoral student Georgie Humphries share how the certificate is designed to bridge the gap between the natural science and social science branches of their department, offering a “third space” for students to investigate the intersections between the two. By embracing the peculiarities and contradictions of their program, they have found new strategies to support collaborations among individuals across the GC, and with communities beyond its walls.

This interview was recorded by Nic Benacerraf on March 21, 2023.



PDF Transcript: Conversation about the Earth and Environmental Sciences Curriculum Grant

“Hearing about what the PublicsLab students were doing definitely shaped the way that I think about what this certificate can accomplish in terms of public facing scholarship.”
– Monica Varsanyi
“We knew we couldn’t have a certificate that mentioned ‘environmental justice’ without it being deeply related to people and community outside of academia, or it really wasn’t going to do what we were hoping to do.”
– Kieren T. Howard
Monica Varsanyi headshotMonica Varsanyi is interim associate provost for academic affairs and dean for humanities and social sciences at the CUNY Graduate Center. At the Graduate Center, she is also a professor of geography in the Earth and Environmental Sciences Ph.D. Program and on the faculty of the International Migration Studies M.A. Program. She is also in the Political Science department at John Jay College, CUNY. She previously served as executive officer of the Earth and Environmental Sciences Ph.D. program. Varsanyi is a scholar of migration, membership, and the state, with a specific focus on unauthorized immigration and immigration federalism in the United States. Her books include Taking Local Control: Immigration Policy Activism in U.S. Cities and States and Policing Immigrants: Local Law Enforcement on the Front Lines.

Kieren Howard headshotKieren T. Howard is Professor and Executive Officer of the Earth and Environmental Sciences program at the CUNY Graduate Center. Additionally, he is on faculty at Kingsborough Community College where he was the Faculty Coordinator of Learning Communities and Director of the CUNY Research Scholars Program. A research associate in the Earth & Planetary Science Department at the American Museum of Natural History, his research interests include X-ray diffraction, Meteoritics, Cosmic Mineralogy & Impacts. His approach to research is based on collaborations, aiming to produce data that addresses his own research questions while helping to facilitate the research of others.

Humphries headshotGeorgie Efegenia Humphries is presently a PhD student at the CUNY Graduate Center’s Earth and Environmental Sciences Department. She conducts research under the guidance of her advisor, Dr. Dianne Greenfield, at the Advanced Science Research Center (ASRC) focusing on coastal and estuarine biogeochemistry, phytoplankton ecology, and bacterial interactions. Additionally, Georgie holds multiple positions, including adjunct lecturer of Environmental Science at Queens College, Natural and Nature Based Features Research Assistant at the Science + Resilience Institute at Jamaica Bay, and Research Assistant for the development of a climate justice certificate with the Graduate Center/Publics Lab.

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