As a metropolitan university, SMSU plays an active role in the interactions between society, technology, the sciences, and the environment in which we live. Humans interact with the environment and, even with modern technology, human activity continues to be influenced by all aspects of the environment. This interrelationship between people and the environment will be an issue of fundamental importance in the 21st Century. SMSU recognizes this through its theme on Science and the Environment.
Southwest Missouri State University is located in a unique setting, and the Ozarks region is part of the broader global environment, both natural and cultural. Few regions in the United States contain the diverse physical and cultural features found in the Ozarks. For example, SMSU's metropolitan area is predominately rural with a rich history dating back some 12,000 years to the first Native Americans, but it is also one of the fastest-growing areas in the country with the state's third-largest city and many towns experiencing record growth. Water and air quality, both of which are major attractions for visitors and permanent residents alike, face challenges that must be solved. The same is true for the cultural resources available in the region. Preservation of the past and progress collide on a daily basis. Through the Science and the Environment theme, students will better understand the unique Ozarks region and its people and their relationship to the global environment. This is the theme's major contribution to the metropolitan conversation.
Virtually everything humans do results in interaction with the natural environment. Basic research in the natural and social sciences continues to provide knowledge about the structure and changes in the natural environment, as well as an understanding of all human endeavors, while technology represents the use of basic science for individual and societal needs. The public affairs mission of SMSU makes it imperative to study those changes to the natural environment that occur as a result of social pressures and technological applications of scientific knowledge. In the long-term, society will be concerned with maintaining that fragile environmental balance of the earth that allows living creatures to flourish. The goal is to use the sciences and apply them to address regional challenges. In the process, students and faculty across many disciplines will consider individual and societal roles in addressing these environmental issues.
SMSU takes its responsibility as a community of scholars seriously, and desires to increase public knowledge and awareness of the consequence of those environment-human interactions through research, teaching, and action. As members of the human race, we can no longer afford the luxury of applying hard-won scientific knowledge in ways that are indifferent to environmental consequences.
Selected University assets to support the science and then environment theme
- All of the science courses in the university's General Education Program include environmental concepts. At the undergraduate level, several major programs in the College of Natural and Applied Sciences have a strong environmental emphasis, and a minor in environmental sciences and policy is available to all students. At the graduate level, environmental management is one of three options in the inter-disciplinary Master of Professional Studies. Many master's degree programs in the College of Natural and Applied Sciences have an environmental emphasis.
- The university operates Missouri's Fruit Experiment Station, located at SMSU-Mountain Grove, where the environmental and economic consequences of growing and producing small fruit crops have been studied since the Station was founded in 1899.
- The Center of Resource Planning and Management works with area communities and governments to help them develop sound plans that are responsive to economic and environmental management.
- Environmental studies of both agricultural and astronomical consequences are on-going activities at the university's Baker's Acres site located north of Marshfield, and the university's 125-acre Agriculture Research and Demonstration Center in west Springfield has an environmental component.
- In 1999, the university established the Bull Shoals Field Station. This field station is operated in collaboration with the Army Corps of Engineers and the Missouri Conservation Department. This environmental learning and research facility adds to SMSU's existing programmatic emphases related to the natural environment.
- A number of university faculty conduct environmentally oriented research every year. Much of this basic and applied scientific research is funded by outside grant dollars. Many federal laws now require that environmental impact studies be conducted prior to changing the use of undeveloped land. (Agencies such as the Corps of Engineers, the Missouri National Guard, etc., are anxious to hire qualified experts to conduct such studies.) Through its Geographic Information Systems (GIS) laboratory and Global Positioning System (GPS) differential base station, SMSU's geography, geology, and planning department provides essential mapping and surveying support to a number of community agencies and environmental groups.
- The Center for Archeological Research, housed in the College of Humanities and Public Affairs, is a prime example of a service being provided, in part, through SMSU's environmental awareness.
- With its mission to "...preserve the heritage of the Ozarks, its culture, environment and history by fostering a comprehensive knowledge of Ozarks' peoples, places, characteristics and dynamics," SMSU's Ozarks Studies Institute encompasses the natural environment as an essential component.