Daily Iowan: Sustainability Certificate to Become Available

Thursday, March 26, 2009

By Justin Sugg
Daily Iowan

Undergraduate students from every corner of the UI can now make their degrees greener with a certificate in sustainability.

Providing a multidisciplinary approach to the subject by including courses from the College of Engineering and the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, the university will offer the certificate beginning this fall.

UI junior Ryan Feld, a biomedical engineering student from Buffalo Grove, Ill., said he likes the idea of the certificate.

“It’s tailor-made for green jobs,” he said. He’s been trying to market his degree when applying for eco-friendly jobs, he said.

Sustainability existed as an elective focus for civil and environmental engineering majors at the UI for the last decade, said Craig Just, an engineering associate research scientist.

But he said sustainability extends beyond engineering.

“All industries and careers can adopt sustainability principles,” he said. “Sustainability is a mindset to view what type of career to choose or company to work for.”

With the 24-semester-hour certificate, the area of study will be open to all UI students.

Students must take three core courses — Introduction to Sustainability, Contemporary Environmental Issues, and Introduction to Environmental Science. To complete the certificate, they must also finish four electives and a project course while maintaining a 2.00 grade-point average.

Just said the new Introduction to Sustainability course introduces students to a panel of “sustainability heroes and advocates.”

Professors from various academic backgrounds and disciplines will explain how each of their fields of study are connected to each other, he said.

The UI is not alone in its multidisciplinary approach to sustainability.

Tom Sinclair, public information manager for the University of Wisconsin’s Nelson Institute, said the university has had a similar certificate for approximately 30 years.

Titled the Certificate in Environmental Studies, Wisconsin’s program combines courses in politics, economics, and social issues with environmental engineering.

Sinclair said Wisconsin kept the program multidisciplinary so it could provide an emphasis in the environment without having to limit a student’s studies.

University of Northern Iowa chemistry Professor William Stigliani agreed about the need to approach sustainability and the environment by incorporating different fields of study.

“Problems we have to confront will require multidisciplinary thinking,” he said, and such issues as energy independence will require political and economic expertise as well as engineering.

There will be some job opportunities for people with an emphasis in sustainability, he said.
“As soon as the economy recovers, the green industry will boom,” he said.

Even students who may not go into the green industry will benefit from the certificate, Just said.

“The program represents an excellent opportunity for students from all majors to add value to their education at Iowa,” he said. “This program should also help students learn sustainable personal choices they might apply during their careers at Iowa and lives after graduation.”