Undergraduates with Environmental minors can now look to Dr.Johnston from the Religion Department for advising and a sneak peak at the future of the program.

By: Kellie Shanaghan

Dr. Luke Johnston was recently appointed as the Director of the Environmental Program at Wake Forest University. In this role, he oversees undergraduate students pursuing minors in Environmental Studies and Environmental Science.

“[With this position] I am most excited about the opportunity to integrate teaching with sustainability and see how those holistically fit together,” Dr.Johnston said.

The Environmental Program was established in 1995 by a group of faculty across several disciplines. It offers an interdisciplinary approach to studying how humans interact with the environment by offering classes from a range of disciplines including biology, chemistry, english, government, law, religion, and anthropology.

The program is currently working toward creating an Environmental Studies major, which is a key goal for the program’s future, according to Dr.Johnston.

“I had six students contact me about the major just this week,” Dr.Johnston said. “But we probably have two dozen who’ve expressed interest.”

With over 70 minors, students have already demonstrated significant interest in the discipline.  In May 2018, Sebastian Irby graduated as the  first Wake Forest student with a degree in Sustainability Studies. Irby designed her unique curriculum through the Interdisciplinary major and paved the path for the potential Environmental Studies major.

The curriculum for the Environmental Studies major, which will use the capacity of the university’s Interdisciplinary major, has been presented to the college for review and hopeful approval.

Dr.Johnston, a Wake Forest alumnus himself, graduated with a B.A. in psychology in 1998. He returned to Wake Forest as an Associate Professor of Religion and Environment in 2009 after receiving an M.A. in Ethics and Social Policy from the Graduate Theological Union, a Graduate Certificate in Environmental Ethics from the University of Georgia, and a Ph.D. in Religion and Nature from the University of Florida.

He teaches a variety  of courses in Religion and Environmental Studies. The religion department website describes the focus of his research as a study of “the relationship between biocultural evolution and religion, with particular attention paid to environmental social movements and cross-cultural political dialog related to ideas about nature.” Dr. Johnston also serves as co-editor for the Journal for the Study of Religion, Nature, and Culture. 

Dr.Johnston believes the application of values from across science, humanities, arts, and numerous other disciplines is attractive to students and employers looking for well rounded individuals. 

“We need to make those interdisciplinary connections count for students and faculty,” Dr.Johnston said.