Schwanke Courses and Instructors

Climate Science, Society, and Solutions

 Course Description:  This course will provide students with a basic understanding of the fundamental scientific and social issues arising from global climate change. Each day we will discuss different topics that cover climate change science, local and global impacts, climate solutions, policy-making, ethics and equity, and psychology.

These big topics are made local and personal as we study climate change on the natural and cultural landscape, consider new perspectives through interactive simulations, talk with local sustainability leaders, and work in teams to develop practical solutions.

Students will grapple with the following questions: How will climate change shape the future? What does climate change look like in Montana and in other parts of the world? How can we conceptualize climate change solutions, both technical and political? And how can we inspire hope in ourselves and others?

Students will assess their carbon footprint and evaluate systemic changes for reducing emissions; identify specific climate impacts in their home and globally; develop a Climate Project Pitch; keep a climate change journal; and write an op-ed style piece focused at communicating climate change science and information to a public audience.

Course instructor:  Nicky Phear was a founding director of the University of Montana’s Climate Change Studies Program, a minor degree that gives students a multidisciplinary understanding of climate change and involves them in developing solutions. For the CCS program, she taught the introductory Climate Change: Science and Society course and developed experiential learning opportunities through internships, practicums, and field courses. She has led field-based climate change education programs in Bhutan, Vietnam, and Montana; was a founding member of Climate Smart Missoula; and has led numerous campus and community climate discussions.

Nicky Phear now works with the Maureen and Mike Mansfield Center to support youth education and empowerment on global environmental issues. She serves as an Academic co-Director for the Young Southeast Asian Leadership Initiative (YSEALI), where she creates opportunities for youth leaders from Southeast Asia and Montana to exchange perspectives, ideas, and solutions to global challenges. She is also the Coordinator of the Women’s Leadership Initiative, where she helps to empower women to engage in leadership and public service.

Nicky Phear has a BA in Psychology from the University of Pennsylvania, an MS in Environmental Studies from the University of Montana, and a PhD from Prescott College in Sustainability Education. In addition to her interest in climate change education, she is an avid backcountry skier and mountain biker.


Photograph of faculty member Nicky Phear Headshot