Vassar’s newest multidisciplinary program, Environmental Studies, presented its first speaker as David Kline spoke about "An Amish Farmer's Essays."  The author of Great Possessions: An Amish Farmer’s Journal (1990) and Scratching the Woodchuck: Nature on an Amish Farm (1997), Kline crafted “his discussion from moment to moment,” wrote Michael Centore ’02 in The Miscellany News, “allowing his visionary impulse to eclipse all else, letting the instant dictate his subject and cadence.  A thought extolling the virtues of butter would be buttressed against homage to family life and the duties of parenthood, without any feeling of disjunction.  The unity was in the calm transition from topic to topic.”  Centore concluded, "[Kline's] interactions with questioners was like the course of his life itself: marked out with a special care, candor and piety that few of us have mastered. The college is fortunate he chose to share."

Five years in development, the environmental studies program was first proposed by a small faculty group in the 1994-95 academic year.  With aid from conservationist and philanthropist Priscilla Bullitt Collins ’42, the multidisciplinary curriculum developed and was approved by the college in December 1999.   Professor of English Daniel Peck, the new program’s first director called it “the most fully interdisciplinary environmental studies program in the U.S.”   Peck’s colleague Associate Professor of Chemistry Stuart Belli agreed, “What we’re doing with environmental studies,” he said, “is bridging the gap between the social sciences, the natural sciences and the humanities.”  Meleah Houseknecht ’01, the first Vassar graduate in environmental studies, said the program reflected “the fact that environmental studies, by nature, includes every discipline.”     The Miscellany News