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Sustainability Certificate Now Available to Undergrads

Student Alexandra Parvaz works in Edible Campus Gardens.

July 31, 2012—Due to increased demand for environmental sustainability programs from students and greater need for professionals in that field, the University of Utah is now offering an Integrated Certificate in Sustainability for students in all majors, with the exception of those already majoring in environmental and sustainability studies.

The intent of this new program is to give students the depth of knowledge, skills and critical thinking to secure and excel at jobs that help to create a more sustainable future. Obtaining the certificate involves completing a 23 credit-hour program with one required introductory course. Students can choose either Introduction to Environment and Sustainability or Foundations of Urban Ecology.

They also need to complete one final project and 15 credits of electives, with a certain number of them being upper-level courses. The program is interdisciplinary, and to complete it, students must take at least six credits outside of their home college. The University of Utah Board of Trustees approved the certificate at their April 2012 meeting.

The undergraduate certificate was the brainchild of the founding director of the university’s Office of Sustainability, Craig Forster, who began laying the groundwork for the effort in 2008, prior to his untimely death in a hiking accident. Forster saw the certificate as a first step toward a much more prominent place for sustainability studies in the curriculum.

The two co-directors of sustainability curriculum development, university faculty members Steve Burian and Dan McCool, see the implementation of the certificate program as a great need, but also as a way to honor Forster’s work in first bringing sustainability to this campus.

Burian says, “This new program is a great opportunity for students to increase their marketability in what is still a tough employment environment. Adding sustainability knowledge and skills to majors in engineering, business, communication, architecture or other fields of study will help our students pursue jobs and become leaders in their sustainability-related careers.”

The undergraduate certificate is the first of several programs to be assembled by Burian and McCool. They have recently begun expanding their efforts to include graduate programs, but really felt the biggest initial impact would be at the undergraduate level. McCool explains, “By starting with an undergraduate certificate, we were building on a groundswell of interest and support from students. This was validated this summer with the tremendous initial response from students to this new opportunity.”

The certificate will be available to students for the first time starting in the fall semester of 2012. Initially, 30 students are expected to take part, with substantial growth anticipated in subsequent years.

For more details about the program, students should contact Associate Dean of Undergraduate Studies Ed Barbanell at 801-585-6423.