New sustainability minor focuses on being green

The Bush Foundation granted the University $900,000 for use in sustainability studies.

Heather L. Mueller

Fifty students will measure how much waste they produce every day and the amount of gas a truck transporting strawberries to Minnesotans in the dead of winter burns in a pilot course for the new sustainability studies minor course this semester.

The University’s Board of Regents approved the new minor in the College of Liberal Arts Thursday during its monthly meeting.

Students in the minor will study socio-environmental problems on a global scale, according to the Ecosystem Science and Sustainability Initiative Web site.

Todd Arnold, a professor teaching “Topics in Natural Resources: Frameworks of Sustainability” with another professor this fall, said sustainability “represents development that meets the needs of current generations without compromising the needs of future generations.”

Sustainability is about “ensuring that people have livelihoods now and in the future, while leaving a place for biodiversity,” he said.

Journalism and political science senior Elizabeth Alwes said she started biking to campus after learning about sustainability in a class three years ago. The program, she said, has real-world value.

“In the coming years and decades, sustainability is something our society has to address,” Alwes said.

Sustainability studies focus on the idea that “every action has an equal but opposite reaction,” she said.

Alwes said she plans to participate in the minor program, but said it might be difficult because she will have to do an independent study to graduate in the spring.

Kris Johnson, program coordinator for the Ecosystem Science and Sustainability Initiative, said the minor is targeted toward first-years, sophomores and juniors because the capstone for the program is not developed.

The new minor requires students to complete a total of 15 credits: two required courses, two elective courses and one capstone course.

Johnson said there were inquiries into the program last spring, but the minor had not been approved by the regents until Thursday.

Anita Pampusch, president of the Bush Foundation, said the foundation was eager to fund an interdisciplinary program that focused on ecological health, renewable resources and a sustainable environment.

The foundation granted $900,000 to the University for development and research in sustainability studies.

Lisa Disch, a political science professor teaching the first course with Arnold, said the minor is a good example of how the University can bring students from various disciplines together.

“Sustainability studies is exactly the kind of project the University wants to be involved in right now,” Disch said.

The minor might help students in the College of Liberal Arts who feel trapped by course requirements and provide an opportunity to discover their intellectual strengths in science, Disch said.

“Growth is an oxymoron in a waste-oriented society,” Disch said. “Sustainability is a model for a new way of doing things.”