As prospective students take their tour, it is easy for them to gain the impression that UD is a sustainability-focused university. However, it is an institution without a major in Sustainable Studies. There are plans for that to change come Fall 2019.
In 2014, George and Amanda Hanley donated $12.4 million to establish the Hanley Sustainability Institute. This gift will enable UD to sponsor a major in Sustainability.
Plans for the major began in 2015 after the initiation of the Sustainability, Energy and the Environment (SEE) minor. Rebecca Potter, the director of the Sustainability Program, started work on the major with a SEE advisory committee made up of faculty members from multiple departments.
Potter said the minor served as a trial for the major, which was announced in 2010 and was described as a “mini major.” It was designed to be a challenging minor for students with opportunities for experiential and interdisciplinary learning.
The major is going to have two tracks: a Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) or a Bachelor of Science (B.S.) in Sustainable Studies. The two tracks will allow students from non-science majors to more easily double major and find classes that align with their interests. The major will require the liberal arts curriculum as it is housed in the School of Arts and Sciences.
It also will require students to pick a concentration within the major. The B.A. choices are Vocational, Food Studies and Urban Sustainability, and the B.S. options are Vocational, Energy and Sustainable Watershed. The curriculum also requires all students in the program to complete a capstone experience and experiential learning credit.
There has been much anticipation for the major since work started on it in 2015. Many students in the sustainability program picked UD in the hope of graduating with a sustainability major.
Senior Jesse Carbonaro, with assistance from the university, developed her own course guide to, essentially, graduate with a sustainability major. She began college as an environmental biology major with a SEE minor in the hope to understand the “natural processes, chemical changes, and scientific effects of human practices on the world.” It was not until studying abroad in Berlin that she came to the realization that she wanted to study sustainability at a higher level.
She started the process of expanding the SEE minor into a major for herself. This resulted in her working with Potter to determine which classes would best contribute to her major. Her transcript ended up reflecting a B.S. in Interdisciplinary Education Studies. Her curriculum had a foundation in biology to tackle complex environmental issues and included a sustainability capstone course and classes in a variety of disciplines, such as English and economics.
Carbonaro said Potter, the Hanley Sustainability Institute and the School of Arts and Sciences were helpful in constructing the curriculum. She is excited for more students to engage with the curriculum and gain this knowledge.
“Learning about sustainability in an interdisciplinary fashion is advantageous as our students go out into the workplace.” Carbonaro said. “The major equips students to problem solve creatively and effectively to our worlds emerging problems. Additionally, I feel this major will complement majors across all schools very well as sustainability is woven into all disciplines.”
The major is expected to be finished by this summer and should be available for students to begin taking classes by Fall 2019. Potter hopes the announcement of the versatile, new major will bring interest to the Hanley Sustainability Institute and other sustainability initiatives on campus.
Photo courtesy of Kaitlin Gawkins.