VERMILLION, S.D. — This fall, the University of South Dakota will begin a new program, which very few schools in the Midwest offer.
Curriculum for a new major in Sustainability has been planned and will start at the end of August.
Emily Haddad, associate dean for Academics in the College of Arts and Sciences at USD, said the more established programs in Sustainability tend to be in the southwest, northeast and northwest and there is not as much activity in the Midwest.
“USD is now positioned to be a leader in developing this kind of curriculum, and doing it in a way that is responsible in our institution as well,” she said. “By taking advantage of a lot of existing courses and enabling the existing curriculum to serve this new purpose, we can offer a rich and informative program for students.”
Haddad said Sustainability deals with development and the use of resources in a way that sustains them over time.
“It meets the needs of the present, but it does so, without taking so much that the future is unable to meet its needs as well,” she said. “This is a really important idea for all of us. We all need to be thinking ahead about what potential the planet has to be able to sustain all of us. Individual choices matter, large-scale political and economic decisions matter too.”
Haddad has been involved with curricular development for the College of Arts and Sciences and assisted in getting the document that gave USD permission to begin developing the program.
She said the program has two specializations, and all students, regardless of which specialization they choose, will complete a core of required classes and electives within that core.
There are a couple of introductory sustainability courses, one that is called Sustainability in Society and one that is Sustainability in Science, which all students will take, as well as a political science course in public policy, she said.
“Public policy is very important to implementation of ideas and goals that are needed in sustainability,” Haddad said.
Students will also choose an Environmental Science class, an Environmental Ethics or Environmental Economics course, and practical or applied experience.
“This is really important to the way we see the Sustainability program,” she said. “Students need to do an internship, get field experience or undergraduate research — something that’s hands-on, practical and applied that has to do with Sustainability.”
It is a required part of the major for every student, and they will also be required to take half of their coursework in the core, and the other half in electives and specialization.
Aaric Willard, from Yankton, is transferring to USD because of the new program. He said it’s the only university in a four-or five-state region that has it, and feels it will be an impressive major.
“When I was majoring in Interior Design at SDSU, sustainability was always the main focus,” Willard said. “I thought it would be a really good idea to look into, and then I found out USD had a program for it.”
Willard said Sustainability can no longer be ignored, which will hopefully give him a stable career choice.
“It’s a great program to bring to USD, especially since it’s a liberal arts school,” he said. “Since we’re the only university within a big region that has it, I think it will draw in a whole bunch of people.”
Sustainability is an emerging and developing field, Haddad said, and it’s not yet clear, nationally, how it’s going to manage its priorities over the next few decades.
With the flexibility to choose the electives on their own, students will be able to craft their own program so that they’re well prepared to deal with what they want to do with a Sustainability major, she said.
“The students need to have a common foundation, and that’s what those core requirements are,” Haddad said. “Beyond that, if they are really focused on the sciences for example, they need to be able to make selections within Sustainability that reflect that. Or, if what they really want to do is focused more on public communication about Sustainability, then they should be able to choose more policy, communications, contemporary media and journalism and public relations classes so they’re well prepared to work in that area.”
Willard said he will be going into the Human Sciences because he still wants to deal with interior design, but wants to be a green advocate for things like city planning.
“For what my specialization will be, it’ll focus on developing plans to building houses and cities in the greenest way possible, and leaving the smallest carbon footprint as far as how they obtain the materials and how they build it,” he said. “It sounds like it’s going to be a really strong major and it was a great program to bring to the university.”
Information from: Yankton Press and Dakotan, http://www.yankton.net/