Sustainability minor aids green initiative

A new sustainability studies minor offers a structured yet flexible way for students to learn about sustainability in several disciplines, said Rhonda Mandel, dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

The minor brings together classes from 10 disciplines and gives students a chance to select the aspect of sustainability that most interests them.

“It seemed to make sense just to allow students to be given a small core and then to allow them to construct the electives to the direction that they want to take it,” Mandel said.

Mandel also heads the Climate Action Steering Committee that proposed the minor two years ago. The committee also includes faculty members from many departments including political science, economics, geology, physics, education and anthropology.

“A lot of issues of sustainability are not really just scientific issues, they are issues of culture and economics and politics,” Mandel said. “And a student who really cared about sustainability would really need to have that interdisciplinary perspective.”

Oswego State is already involved with several sustainability initiatives but Mandel said creating the minor was a big step.

“I think as we look towards making a difference in our world we have an obligation to the sustainability of our planet,” Mandel said. “Many students expressed an interest and many faculty developed courses around that theme and it seemed to make sense to allow a student who had an interest in that area to develop a more structured program.”

The minor fits into Oswego State’s sustainability efforts and will give students an academic outlet to living sustainably.

“It definitely seemed like a good fit to helping the school get toward its goals of increasing awareness and trying to become more sustainable,” Lisa Glidden, adviser to sustainability minors and political science professor, said. “It will help educate students because it will help them get on board with the other sustainability initiatives. It’s a really good way to get students aware and active in their communities.”

The core requirements for the minor are Environmental Sustainability and Economic and Political Foundations of Sustainability Students must also select a third core class from Environment and and Population Biology , Digging Up the Past or Energy and the Environment.

Glidden designed one course, Economic and Political Foundations of Sustainability specifically to fit into the minor. It is a core requirement.

“We thought there needed to be a social science companion [to GEO 115],” Glidden said.

In terms of electives the minor offers many classes to choose from. Students can select from classes ranging from Psychology of Sustainable Behavior, to Weather Disasters

“It’s a pretty flexible minor. There are lots of courses that can be taken for electives,” Glidden said.

Many of the electives available for the minor are already general education requirements, which could make it very easy for students to pick up sustainability studies as an area of study.

The minor also offers students a chance to fulfill an elective requirement through an internship or independent study.

“The independent project or internship I think should make it pretty interesting,” Glidden said. “Students can really tailor what they get out of the minor to their own interests.”

Glidden said the classes available for minor will continue to grow and there are already a few new ones she is looking to add to the list of electives.

“I’ve already found a few that we’ve missed,” Glidden said. “It’s a growing interest on campus between faculty and students so I think we probably will have more classes.”

The committee studied sustainability minors offered by other universities and decided that a program that offered flexibility would be most beneficial to students at Oswego State.

“We looked at a few models that are out there,” Glidden said. “I think we are pretty happy with what we have, especially because we couldn’t really create new courses to do it.”

“That balance between some structure and some freedom is really what we wanted from that sustainability minor,” Mandel said.

Mandel said she believes the minor will not only help educate students on sustainability but will inspire them to make a difference in their communities after leaving Oswego State.

“I hope that students go out into the world more informed about issues of sustainability, more aware of issues of sustainability and that those students begin to push an agenda that helps us to have a sustainable world,” Mandel said. “We think to do that you need a broad-based knowledge.”

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