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MSU major combines environment, economics
MISSISSIPPI STATE – A passion for the environment is drawing students to a recently redesigned economics-based degree program at Mississippi State University.
The Environmental Economics and Management degree combines courses in environmental economics, natural resource economics, environmental policy, ecology and environmental law. The EEM major was formerly an environmental and resource economics concentration under the umbrella degree Agricultural, Food and Resource Economics.
Leslie Gregg, a sophomore from Hoover, Ala., chose the Environmental Economics and Management major because of her lifelong interest in protecting the environment. She would like to work for the Environmental Protection Agency or as an environmental lobbyist one day.
“I think it is important to protect our environment in the most cost-effective ways possible,” Gregg said.
She said her professors are passionate about the material and willing to help students whenever possible.
“The classes really opened my eyes and helped me to understand more about the economic world we live in,” Gregg said.
Matthew Interis, MSU assistant professor of agricultural economics, said students in the EEM major learn to think critically about decisions that involve or impact the environment.
“This major is ideal for students who enjoy critical thinking, are interested in environmental decision making or would like a job related to environmental policy,” Interis said.
Jonathon Giuffria, a junior from Long Beach, came to MSU as a first-generation college student. He first chose Business Information Systems as a major.
“I was looking for a major that would produce a large salary immediately after graduation,” Giuffria said.
He soon realized computer coding programs were not right for him, so he switched to political science, thinking he would go to law school and study environmental law and policy. Although he enjoyed his classes, he wanted to stand apart from other political science majors. About that time, he saw a poster for the new Environmental Economics and Management degree.
“I examined the curriculum for the major and immediately liked it,” Giuffria said. “The combination of economics, biological sciences and policy classes couldn’t have been a better fit for me.”
Giuffria hopes to earn a law degree eventually, and he is confident the material he is learning now will help him in his future career.
“I want people to understand just how precious the environment is and how it affects the market,” Giuffria said. “I want to do what I can to help people and firms make the best choices, not only for their own short-term gains, but also for long-term sustainability.”
The EEM degree is offered through MSU’s Department of Agricultural Economics in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.
“Based on the feedback we received, many prospective students did not look beyond the word ‘agricultural’ in the title,” said Randy Little, professor and undergraduate coordinator in MSU’s Department of Agricultural Economics. “It seems that was scaring away many potential students, so we decided to realign our degree program.”
Little said five students were in the newly formed major in the spring, and a total of nine are enrolled this fall. Others are completing paperwork for admittance into the program.
Jobs for EEM graduates can be found in local governments; federal and state agencies such as the EPA, Fish and Wildlife Service and Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality; environmental interest groups; resource management companies; and environmental consulting businesses. Students also will be prepared to enter law or graduate school.