MU environmental studies cabin
The event was hosted at the Environmental Studies Cabin, located behind the old football field, near the Eel River.
Photo by Carly Greaves

Environmental Studies Program Celebrates 50 Years

Madison Cunningham

On Saturday, Oct. 22, smells of pumpkin donuts and crisp apple cider filled the kitchen in the Environmental Studies cabin. A celebration was held to mark their fiftieth anniversary of the program. The program, established in 1971 by President A. Blair Helman and his committee members, was created to educate students about the environment.

When the program started, it was broad. Manchester students were given exposure to many topics and issues, but it was not specialized. Steve Johnson, Manchester Environmental Studies graduate of ’77 and current executive director of the Wabash County United Fund, had a similar experience in the program. When he was a Manchester student, a lot of what he experienced were study trips and making time to meet people in the field to talk about their findings. “It was a lot of going to visit places, and scheduling time to talk to people,” Johnson said. “There were no internships or partnerships that immerse the students.” Today, the program gives more outreach to the community and welcomes students to not only question but discover solutions to environmental issues that arise.

Several people spoke at the celebration, including Colleen Caylor, Manchester class of ’25. Caylor is an Environmental Studies major, who found her love for science at an early age. She stumbled upon her major while thinking about many environmental concerns, including climate control. What was once a hard topic for Caylor became one of the many aspects that drives her thirst for knowledge. “I should be working on the solution,” said Caylor, standing proud, “not worrying about the problem.”

Aside from climate control, issues like food insecurity and global warming were also discussed. Along with the newfound bond with the peace studies program, who plan to go along with the environmental studies program to Florida this Jan-term. The two groups will explore Florida to meet with experts in the field and do volunteer work to help repair damage caused by Hurricane Ian. “The big focus of it is not just working on environmental issues but how they relate peace issues and environmental injustice,” Caylor said.

A recent Manchester Graduate of ’22, Dinah Gilbert (Environmental Studies, Peace Studies, and Religious Studies Major with a minor in Biology), also made an appearance at the event to speak about the program and the role it played in her life. Gilbert now works as a farmhand at the Merry Lea Environmental Learning Center at Goshen College. “Merry Lea has about 100 acres of sustainable farmland, and about 1,200 acres of farmland total that goes towards trails, preservation, community, and bringing land back to what is native in Indiana,” Gilbert said. This sustainable farm aims to teach not only K-12 students but graduate students the full cycle of harvesting land and raising animals.

Half a century later, the program is still thriving. As well as abiding by their mission to educate students about the many factors that take place to support a healthy environment. It is one of many at Manchester University that shares qualities of Pres. Dave’s goal to “Unscrew up the world one Manchester Graduate at a time.”