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University to Launch Sustainability Minor

By Molly Davis Posted: 02/15/2010
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Emory will introduce a sustainability minor this fall, the culmination of growing student and faculty interest throughout the last several years.

The sustainability minor, which will be an undergraduate program offered through the Graduate Institute of the Liberal Arts (ILA), requires the completion of two core courses and four electives. The courses that count toward the sustainability minor will be interdisciplinary; requirements can be satisfied through several departments, including anthropology and economics.

Peter Wakefield, senior lecturer and director of undergraduate studies for the interdisciplinary studies major, said sustainability is an “emerging” subject that has to be defined in part by students.

“It will benefit students who are interested in sustainability by giving them certification of their expertise, and in general it goes hand-in-hand with Emory’s commitment to sustainability,” Wakefield said.

Students minoring in sustainability must also complete a personal portfolio that will showcase a compilation of their projects throughout the program and allow them to reflect on their experiences. In addition, students must participate in a capstone experience, such as field research or study abroad programs.

“For students, the minor will strengthen their thinking and skills around intellectual issues of sustainability and strengthen their hands-on skills,” said Peggy Barlett, Goodrich C. White Professor of Anthropology and faculty liaison to the Office of Sustainability Initiatives (OSI).

Barlett, who was part of the steering committee that worked to create the new minor, said she believes faculty members will benefit from the program. She said many professors have expressed interest in teaching sustainability-related courses, adding that 79 percent of the University’s divisions already offer at least one course pertaining to sustainability.

So far, she said, 116 faculty members have developed courses related to sustainability.

“[The faculty] will be stimulated and grow intellectually as well,” Barlett said.

According to Wakefield, there has been very strong faculty participation in several sustainability efforts in the past.

For example, he said, the Piedmont Project seeks to help faculty members incorporate environmental and sustainability issues into Emory’s curriculum.

Wakefield said the steering committee had been discussing the minor for the past three years.

The proposal for the program was approved in fall 2009, he said.

He said the committee will continue to meet as the sustainability minor progresses and will convene at least once a semester to review students’ portfolios and discuss the minor in general.

Wakefield said he predicts that in the next one or two years, 30 to 50 students will participate in the sustainability minor.

Several students have already e-mailed him saying they are glad the minor has been implemented, he said.

“We see students taking the lead in the direction sustainability will take,” Wakefield said.

Director of Sustainability Initiatives Ciannat Howett wrote in an e-mail to the Wheel that the minor will complement the efforts that the OSI has already begun.

“The minor supports the work of the [OSI] by supporting the overall vision of integrating sustainability into the curriculum and exposing our students to sustainability practices and concepts across all fields of study,” Howett wrote. “It also supports our work directly because the ‘capstone’ experience may be one to further our sustainability efforts on campus or with one of our community partners.”

Howett wrote she hopes the minor will encourage students who have “just the seed of an interest” to explore sustainability more in-depth.

“I have no doubt that, out of the group of students who minor in sustainability at Emory, we will see future leaders who will help create a more sustainable local and global community,” she said.

— Contact Molly Davis.

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