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University introduces a new major aimed at exploring climate change solutions

A MARTINEZ, HOST:

When I first started college, there was so much to figure out, what buildings were all my classes in or what clubs to join.

LEILA FADEL, HOST:

Hey, A, as a freshman, did you do all that and try to solve climate change?

MARTINEZ: No.

FADEL: All right. I didn't think so. That's what incoming Iowa State freshman Daniel Musel, though, is doing. He's trying to figure out how to translate the science of climate change into layman's terms.

DANIEL MUSEL: So taking the data and putting it into terms that anyone can understand, that's really interesting to me. So I hope that I can kind of bridge that gap.

MARTINEZ: Musel plans to major in climate science, a new ISU program with studies in climate policy, economics and communications. Department Chair Kristie Franz says, unlike programs at other schools, Iowa State's will combine those disciplines to prepare students to go beyond Earth and atmospheric sciences and into social sciences.

KRISTIE FRANZ: It formalizes the education in a way so that students can really focus just on that climate aspect. Instead of getting a little bit of climate here, a little bit of climate there, it's really focused on it at its core.

FADEL: The board of regents approved the new major just a couple of weeks ago. Although Regent Nancy Boettger says she's a little skeptical on one front.

NANCY BOETTGER: My main concern is that we go the extra mile to protect freedom of speech for opinions that differ in this politically charged topic.

MARTINEZ: But Franz says they've got that covered.

FRANZ: We've always supported all viewpoints in the classroom, regardless of the topic. And this is fundamentally a science degree program. As science educators, it's our job to help students to be able to make well-articulated arguments supported by facts and data. And that's really what we do in our job. That's what we'll continue to do regardless of the topic.

FADEL: Iowa State Cyclones can start studying climate-based solutions when the term starts later this month.

(SOUNDBITE OF MOONLIT SAILOR'S "VACANT LIBRARY") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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