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Lauren Ashley '15
Randolph-Macon College Professors Michael Fenster (geology) and Steven Lang (
) are teaching their students to think outside the classroom.
Fenster and Lang teach the
(FYE) course Beaches or Bedrooms: The Economic and Environmental Consequences of Coastal Development. The FYE program is an immersion in creative, critical thinking and cross-disciplinary learning. The Beaches or Bedrooms course combines the primary disciplines of economics and environmental (coastal) geology to address the question, “What is the value of a beach in its natural state?”
In order to answer that question, students recently traveled to the Eastern Shore, where they traveled by boat to see firsthand the dynamic nature of natural, pristine and unspoiled barrier islands. Students also had the opportunity to measure coastal dynamics by surveying the beach, taking samples from the lagoon and beaches, and using state-of-the-art oceanographic instruments.
to view photos from the trip.
“We are examining the economic and environmental consequences of choices that people make in highly dynamic coastal zones,” explains Fenster. “We are also investigating the economics of coastal development by examining economic models of the trade-offs associated with choices, the conceptual basis for cost-benefit analysis, and the methods used for measuring these values.”
From a geologic perspective, students are investigating and analyzing the processes that operate in natural coastal systems, the products that those processes produce, and the impacts of humans on those natural systems. From an economic standpoint, students are learning the conditions under which markets generate socially desirable outcomes and the conditions under which they fail to do so. This analysis will help students form their own views on socially optimal levels of coastal development.
Lang joined the faculty at Randolph-Macon College in 1987. He earned his B.A., M.A. and Ph.D. from the University of Pittsburgh.
Fenster joined the faculty at Randolph-Macon College in 1999. He earned his B.S. and M.S. at the University of Mississippi and his Ph.D. at Boston University, and he conducted post-doctoral research at the University of Virginia. He currently serves as the director of the college’s
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