ESI graduates first students

Graduations are a time to celebrate the completion of education, but the Spring 2002 graduation will be a special time for the graduates of the Environmental Science Institute. The institute will graduate its first undergraduate class in April.

The Environmental Science Institute, which established its undergraduate curriculum in 1995, was granted degree status by the now-defunct Board of Regents in 1996.

In the fall of 1998, the institute enrolled its first undergraduate class. Kareem Stinnett, 21, a senior from Atlanta was among the small group of students who began the program.

“There were about 10 to 15 of us. Like any other established college or institute on campus, I didn’t know what to expect,” Stinnett said.

Stinnett added that he realized there was more to environmental science than he thought.

“I thought environmental science was about saving the world, but we had introductory courses and I liked it. I’ve always had an interest in science.”

FAMU is the only university in the state that has an environmental institute and offers bachelor, master and doctorate of philosophy degrees in environmental science. The undergraduate program has four concentrations, including environmental toxicology and risk assessment, environmental monitoring and instrumentation, environment restoration and waste management and environment policy.

Stinnett, who is majoring in the latter concentration, said he plans to pursue a master’s degree in public health, then work for the Environmental Protection Agency or a manufacturing corporation.

He added that the lack of environmental interest in the African-American community is the result of apathy.

“African Americans are not educated about the environment. Many of the diseases we have are because of our surroundings.

Larry Robinson, director of the Environmental Science Institute said he is looking forward to the commencement ceremony.

“We’re so excited. Probably more so than their parents,” Robinson said. “We’ll be graduating some outstanding scientists. We’ve learned as much from them as we have taught them.

“This is the largest class of African Americans to graduate in environmental science in the state of Florida.”

Robinson said he hopes the graduates will go back to their communities and find ways to improve their environments.

“Many of our communities are impacted by some kind of environmental undesirable activity. They’ll be apart of the solution and won’t depend upon anyone else to do so,” Robinson said.

“They’re changing the face of environmental science.”