Fairfield University partners with Columbia University making the Biosphere 2 Center in Arizona available to Fairfield students


For thousands of students, life in a glass bubble offers the ultimate chance to put Mother Earth under the microscope.

Fairfield University has partnered with Columbia University's Biosphere 2 Center to allow Fairfield students to receive Fairfield credits while they spend a semester learning at the Arizona facility, which features a three-acre glass- and steel-domed laboratory. Beginning in the spring semester of 2003, Fairfield will send two to three students to the 250-acre Arizona facility in the Santa Catalina Mountains just north of Tucson to live and learn.

The Center, constructed in 1984, gained headlines for its mission to see if a crew of men and women could sustain themselves for two years in a closed environment. Today the Center is an offshoot of Columbia University that attracts more than 180,000 visitors annually. The southwestern ecosystems accessible from Biosphere 2 campus serve as living laboratories for studying Earth's physical and biological processes.

Alexandra Galeano, a sophomore at Fairfield University, will be among the first students from the university to experience Biosphere 2. Galeano, an international studies major going for a business degree, said that she is excited about fulfilling her science requirements at Fairfield by studying environmental concerns in a hands-on setting.

"It's important no matter what subject you're studying," said Galeano, a Norwalk resident. "Every business has to make decisions about the environment; for example, whether they will use methods in their business that are more expensive for the company, but better for the environment."

Fairfield is the 37th institution to partner with Columbia on the Biosphere project, joining such schools as the University of Notre Dame, Assumption College, and Smith College. Since Columbia University began managing the Center in 1996, more than 1,400 undergraduate students from the United States and around the world have completed semester or summer programs. Biosphere 2 preferentially admits and houses students from partner schools. "This is one of the most exciting research facility in the world," said Lisa H. Newton, Ph.D., professor of philosophy and director of the program in environmental studies at Fairfield.

"This program provides students who want to link international issues and environmental issues with a world-class educational program that explicitly combines scientific study of the environment with policy analysis," said Katherine Kidd, Ph.D., director of the International Studies program at Fairfield University.

"Fairfield students who succeed academically in their Biosphere 2 semester will be eligible for preferential admission to Columbia's new MPA program in Earth Systems Science, Policy and Management a wonderful new graduate program of Columbia's School of International and Public Affairs."

Students in Earth Semester spend the 16-week program exploring the unique laboratory of Biosphere 2, the surrounding Sonoran desert and global issues such as greenhouse warming and land-use change.

Universe Semester students immerse themselves in an intensive astronomy and astrophysics program that takes advantage of southern Arizona's dark skies for observation, utilizing Biosphere 2 Observatory's 24-inch telescope as well as the larger professional telescopes at Kitt Peak National Observatory.

The center has opportunities for a variety of Fairfield's students, said Susan Fitzgerald, director of the International Education Office of the University College at Fairfield University. "We're excited about this new opportunity for our undergraduates both for the science major and the non-science major," Fitzgerald said.

Fairfield University students attending a Biosphere 2 program will live on Columbia's campus there in newly opened apartments. Classes at Biosphere 2 range from Ecological Systems to Human Role in Environmental Change to Observational Astronomy, Galactic Astronomy and Astrobiology. In addition, students undertake a semester-long independent research project and go on field trips that focus on the region's geologic, biologic and cultural diversity.

"We are pleased to add Fairfield University to the Biosphere 2 Center partnership family," said David Downie, Ph.D., director of educational partnerships, Columbia Earth Institute. "Fairfield's commitment to interdisciplinary education and preparing students to effect positive change is in keeping with our educational mission."

For more information, contact Dr. Newton at (203) 254-4000, ext. 4128 or Fairfield University's Study Abroad office at (203) 254-4000, ext. 2914.

Bookmark and Share

Media Contact: Nancy Habetz, (203) 254-4000, ext. 2647, nhabetz@fairfield.edu

Posted on November 15, 2002

Vol. 35, No. 70