Minor, award baby steps to sustainability

The emphasis on sustainability has become more pronounced at Oswego State since the college won an award from the SUNY Chancellor in April. That support paved the way for Oswego’s sustainability course to Ecuador, along with the possibility of a sustainability minor.

Sustainability Tracking, Assessment and Rating System (STARS), gave Oswego State a silver rating because of its sustainability efforts. According to an article on Oswego State’s website, the college recently joined the STARS system along with 114 other colleges.

John Moore, Director of Facilities Engineering and Sustainability at Oswego State, the course to Ecuador helped Oswego achieve its silver rating.

According to a Oswego State article, Lisa Glidden, an assistant professor of political science, was one of five professors around the SUNY system to win the Chancellor award.

“I applied back in April for the SUNY award for internationalization,” Glidden said. The topic of the course was sustainable development, which is why we were able to count it as an immersion experience on our STARS application.”

Glidden has both lived and performed research in Ecuador and has several contacts there.

“I’m also interested in development and when one of my friends in Ecuador was telling me about the work his organization was doing in a rural community there, I thought it would be a

good fit for a course with a travel component,” she said. “We’re not going to Ecuador as experts to offer help; we’re going so that we can learn the challenges of development and conservation in context.”

Students will work with a community that is relatively new to organizing itself on issues of conservation and sustainable development. “It borders an ecological reserve,” she said. On the other side of the reserve, is another community that has been successful at securing funds for conservation and creating local sources of income.

Glidden said deforestation is common because of growing population pressures in the Amazon region.

“There’s an oil pipeline that comes up out of the Amazon, over the Andes Mountains and goes out to the coast for export that has potential negative effects for biodiversity,” she said. “There’s urban sprawl and invasive species that also present challenges.”

For part of the course students will be in Quito, where they will look at urban sprawl, unplanned urban sprawl and ways to keep the watersheds that bring clean drinking water to the area clean.

“We’re working with FONAG (Fund for the Protection of Water), which is the water fund that protects the water supply,” Glidden said. “It started in 2000 and works with local communities and the municipal government to ensure safe drinking water and water for agriculture.”

The class will examine how the water fund works as a model for conservation and water provision. They will visit many parts of Quito so that the students can see the diversity of the economy and the challenges of economic development.

“The focus when we go to the rural area will be on economic development and how the community might be able to pair conservation and economic development,” she said.

The vote to add the sustainability minor to the curriculum was to be decided on Monday, but has now been postponed two weeks Glidden said.

Rhonda Mandel, Dean of the School of Liberal Arts and Sciences and the chair of the Climate Action Steering Committee (CASC) said, “the minor will allow students with an interest in understanding the complex area of sustainability to see how factors like science, economics, politics and culture all factor into how to make for a more sustainable world.”

She also said that there are required courses and many electives that allow students to “follow their own interests in this area. I think that we all have a stake in creating a sustainable future and we wanted to help students with an interest in that area to have an organized curricular experience.”

Glidden said she was approached by a student two years ago who “had already a lot of environment-focused courses on campus, and wanted to know why we didn’t have a major or minor.” At the same time, there was talk from other faculty and Dean Mandel through the CASC about creating a minor.

“As the minor progresses, it is likely that there will be more and more opportunities for student involvement with their communities,” she said. “I look forward to student input in the perfecting of the curriculum as it continues.” According to Mandel, the Office of Experience-Based Education has a long list of opportunities for placements in areas working on improving sustainability.

Alex Lykins, a sophomore biology major and co-president of Students For Global Change was randomly selected to partake in the in the sustainability minor when it was in the experimental stages of his freshman year, he was a history education major.

“I would definitely be minoring in it now because it helps students think more critically and in a social way,” he said. “You get a broad sense of sustainable development for any field and would be given the tools needed to make the points about sustainability be heard.”

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