Sustainability Major in the Future?

October 7, 2009

Students ask sustainability studies to create a major

Last updated: 10/07/09 11:59pm

UNM’s Sustainability Studies Program has seen an increase in student enrollment and demand for a sustainability studies major this year.

Program Director Bruce Milne said last semester the program had approximately 55 students, and this year 87 students have enrolled. He said the increased enrollment will allow professors in sustainability studies to provide new classes.

Milne said the increase in the number of credit hours will also provide more funding for the program next semester.

“What we’re set up to do this year is to have a 56 percent increase in the student credit hours we generate,” he said. “So it’s definitely a fast-growing program. It’s not huge, you know, but it’s fast-growing.”

Students still cannot major in sustainability studies, Milne said, but they can take it as a minor or enroll in sustainability studies courses as electives.

When the program first started, a major wasn’t offered because of concern for students being able to find a job with a degree in sustainability studies, Milne said.

“We didn’t want to put the students at risk — like if you were a sustainability major, your boss might say ‘Yeah, but what do you really do?’” he said. “Now that was a few years ago, when we set this up, and now the demand is there for a major. I surveyed my students the other day, and it was unanimous. They would love to see a major in sustainability studies.” Milne said the Sustainability Studies Program works with six departments at the University, including those in the School of Architecture and Planning and the College of Arts and Sciences.

“All of the students are eligible to take our minor,” he said. “That means that if they combine that with their major, then when they work as an architect, they can be a greener architect, or if they work as a chemist, they’ll be a greener chemist or a greener economist or fine artist.”

Milne said he is studying similar programs at other universities to get ideas about how to implement a sustainability studies major at UNM.

“I’m challenging myself to find out ways to differentiate our major from other sustainability majors,” he said. “What would really make it special here?”

Student Gael Whettnall, who is a student in the Sustainability Studies Program, said it’s important to learn about environmental issues.

“The world definitely is going to have some challenges ahead, because of global carbon emissions. We need to bring it back down to a safe level,” he said. “The way that we’re going to do that is through programs like sustainability studies.”

Milne said the program is designed to promote environmental consciousness among students.

“We’re really trying to get the green stuff out in the world as fast as we could,” he said.

Milne said that, besides offering classes, the Sustainability Studies Program can help students who have an idea for an environmental project.

“When they come forward, and they do come forward, with their own ideas, I really try to help them connect with resources and people so that they can help make their dreams come true,” he said.

Published October 7, 2009 in News