This upcoming fall semester the University will offer a new program aimed at encouraging education in sustainability.
The Graham Environmental Sustainability Institute, a partnership of nine schools and colleges at the University, announced the launch of the Undergraduate Sustainability Scholars Program last week. Starting next semester, the interdisciplinary program will offer a 10-credit series of sustainability courses to students during their junior and senior years.
Steven Wright, education director at the Graham Institute, said the goal of the program is to bring together students across many disciplines that have an interest in sustainability.
“A lot of the problems that relate to sustainability, like climate change and energy, are so complex that we really need people from different programs working together to solve them,” he said.
Though the program is new, officials at the institute have been thinking about initiating the program since the institute first opened in 2006. Wright said the institute offers individual courses about sustainability, but wanted to create a more coherent program.
Lisa Pappas, marketing communications director at the institute, said the scholars program consists of four components — an introductory seminar, a course about the campus and sustainability, an elective course and a place-based course, which allows students in the Graham Institute to travel.
Pappas said students in the institute, though not in the scholars program, have the opportunity to travel to Kenya and Camp Davis in Wyoming to study alternative forms of energy. Students accepted into the scholars program will have all their expenses covered for these courses, Pappas said.
The program will also award its graduating participants a certificate from the Graham Institute, and the school the student is graduating from will decide whether the students will receive a note on their transcript saying they completed the program.
Pappas said this distinction should help attract students who are passionate about sustainability because it will provide them with a tangible record of their achievement.
“They can receive a unique endorsement to acknowledge this scholastic achievement, which will be very helpful in them moving forward in their careers or their graduate studies,” she said.
Each year, Pappas said the program will accept 25 “high-achieving” undergraduate students, who have a GPA of at least 3.3 and show a strong interest in sustainability. Students will also be required to provide a resumé, professor recommendations and write a brief essay.
Though the deadline of March 25 is approaching and no applications have been received thus far, Pappas said there have been several inquiries into the program and a large demand for sustainability courses in general.
“We can clearly see that students want this sort of thing,” she said.
Pappas also said the institute will continue to offer many sustainability programs to students.
“On an ongoing basis we’re offering more and more opportunities for integrated sustainability students, and this is just another thing that we’re adding to the collection of things that we’re offering,” she said.
Engineering senior Abbas Bader said he believes one of the strengths of the program is the fact that it brings together students from different disciplines.
“I think it’d be a good mix with some of the engineering classes, to make some all-rounded students,” he said.
Engineering senior Zoha Mohammed said he thinks the courses offered through the program will be better than more traditional classes because students will be allowed to express their opinions in a classroom setting.
“I think that with students actually being the ones who are discussing and creating these ideas, it would be a lot more effective,” he said.
Business sophomore Megan Ullmann said she thinks the program is important because it will teach students how to live a more sustainable lifestyle.
“I think it’s a good thing that they’re encouraging sustainability and learning more about it,” she said. “That’s really the only way to change things, if people are educated.”