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A Major-Impact Minor

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sustainability minor.jpgBY ALICE YONKE

Among the many other hats it wears, the Institute on the Environment is home to the University of Minnesota's Sustainability Studies minor.

The minor aims to broaden students' understanding of sustainability and its interdisciplinary nature by offering diverse educational opportunities. It's a 15- to 18-credit program for undergraduate students in any field of study. Students are required to take two core courses that introduce them to the many questions, conflicts and theories that arise in the development of a sustainable planet, as well as teach problem-solving skills and how to apply them to our communities.  Students then choose from a wide variety of electives offered across campus. These electives broaden their understanding of sustainability and demonstrate the interdisciplinary approach that must be taken to understand and solve many of the large-scale issues we face today.
Since its creation in 2006, the minor has educated over 500 students with a wide range of majors and has featured faculty from more than seven colleges.
Sustainability Studies offers diversity not only among disciplines, but also among educational experiences. This fall will be the fourth semester offering a Sustainability Internship course taught by Dave Wanberg, a practicing architect, landscape architect, and sustainability plan author. Students in the course have the opportunity to set up their own internship or are placed in a variety of local internships for the semester. At the end of the semester, they present their final work to the public.
There are also several opportunities for students to study sustainability abroad, including Environmental Issues in New Zealand, Sustainable Food Systems in Italy, and Sustainability in Northern Europe. Also in Fall 2010, some students from the sustainability special topics course on carbon policy taught by former State Senator Ellen Anderson and State Representative Kate Knuth traveled to Cancun to attend the COP16 international climate change conference. Another Sustainability Topics course will be offered this upcoming fall, providing students to attend this year's E3 conference presented by IonE's Initiative for Renewable Energy and the Environment.
Editor's note: Looking for a reason to pursue a sustainability minor? Check out this article from the New York Times.

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