The four universities of the Connecticut State University System (CSUS) have stepped up academic programs focusing on the growing “green economy.” In doing so, students are provided with opportunities to gain the expertise necessary to excel in emerging fields, such as environmental sustainability and energy efficiency, which offer both the promise of career pathways and a means of accelerating Connecticut’s economic recovery.
Connecticut law defines “green jobs” as jobs in which green technology is employed. “Green technology” is defined as technology that promotes clean energy, renewable energy or energy efficiency, reduced greenhouse gases or carbon emissions, or involves the invention, design and application of chemical products and processes to eliminate the use and generation of hazardous substances. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics defines a job as “green” if the employee produces environmentally friendly goods or services, or makes a company’s operations more sustainable.
CSUS, with more than 36,600 students, is the largest university system in Connecticut. It includes Central in New Britain, Eastern in Willimantic, Southern in New Haven and Western in Danbury.
At Eastern Connecticut State University, Fred Loxsom, endowed chair of Sustainable Energy Studies, worked with colleagues in the Environmental Earth Science Department to develop an Energy Science track within the Bachelor of Science Environmental Earth Science (EES) major. The new track was offered for the first time a year ago. Students complete a core course in earth science as well as a sequence of courses that will prepare them to understand energy-related environmental issues and policies, and to design, analyze and monitor fossil fuel and renewable energy systems.
"This is an exciting development in the Environmental Earth Science Department," said department chair Drew Hyatt. "We are very pleased to be able to offer a track grounded in Earth Science that will prepare students to understand the science behind sustainable energy. This program broadens geosciences at Eastern and is already drawing new majors to the program." The department also offers an interdisciplinary minor in the field.
Eastern also has been hard at work matching new program offerings to the state’s workforce needs, including two new “Green” Certificates in Sustainable Energy Management offered through the School of Continuing Education, as well as courses in robotics and nanotechnology.
Central Connecticut State University offers a Master of Science in Geography with a specialization in Global Sustainability. It is a 30 credit degree program designed to enable students to examine global environmental, social and economic challenges facing society and to explore and develop possible sustainable solutions. Central’s geography department also offers a BA degree (Environmental Track) for students interested in pursuing environmental careers.
“We believe it is imperative that we provide our students with the tools and knowledge they will need to address the myriad of environmental, economic, and social challenges their generation and future generations will have to face,” says Charles Button, associate professor of Geography. He was the recipient of the Governor’s 2007 Climate Change Leadership Award and founder of Central’s Global Environmental Sustainability Action Coalition.
Central is hosting the 4th annual Global Environmental Sustainability Symposium on April 7, 2011. The conference - free and open to the public - will include workshops, presentations, panels, and papers on a range of sustainability issues. Details are at http://www.ccsu.edu/page.cfm?p=8099
Southern Connecticut State University’s Science Education and Environmental Studies Department offers students minors in environmental studies and marine studies. The environmental studies program includes areas related to land use planning, pollution prevention and controls, societal and economic pressures on the environment. Students in both programs are encouraged to become involved in research projects, internships and independent studies in their areas of interest.
As part of their Freshman Year Experience program, which consists of two academic courses taken by groups of 20 students in “learning communities,” 100 Southern freshmen elected to focus on the environment as the theme for their course work.
“Getting students to think about sustainability provides them with a new perspective that will enrich their learning experiences at Southern, and potentially influence decisions they’ll make in their personal and professional lives,” said Suzanne Huminski, who earned her Master of Science in environmental education from Southern and is teaching three of the classes.
Western Connecticut State University is examining the feasibility of establishing a Center for the Study of Environmental Science and Public Policy to support an interdisciplinary program combining expertise presently available in several of the academic departments at the university with several regional partners. Participants in the Center would conduct research and involve students in studying issues dealing with ground and surface water resources in the region.
The proposed Center would create an organizational umbrella to coordinate all university and regional groups, including to: 1) Prioritize and address common goals; 2) Initiate future research studies;
3) Sponsor student internships and graduate research assistantships to learn methods for conducting research; 4) Expand pre-college student workshop opportunities; and 5) Examine how to best make policy recommendations to the general public. Project partners would include Western’s Department of Biological and Environmental Science and the Department of Social Science with regional partners such as Candlewood Lake Authority and the Housatonic Valley Association.
Western’s Department of Biological and Environmental Sciences has previously offered an advanced course, Climate Ecology in Spring 2009, which is now being considered as a formal course in the department’s course rotation and would address several “green issues” as part of the curriculum.
All four universities are participants in the American College & University Presidents Climate Commitment, in which the institutions commit to developing and implementing an action plan for becoming climate neutral, to include actions to make climate neutrality and sustainability a part of the curriculum and other educational experience for all students and to expand research or other efforts necessary to achieve climate neutrality.
Central and Eastern were selected in 2010 for inclusion in the Princeton Review’s “Guide to 286 Green Colleges” — two of only six Connecticut institutions to be so designated for demonstrating an exemplary commitment to sustainability. Developed in partnership with the U.S. Green Building Council, the Guide is the first comprehensive book focused solely on institutions of higher education with a commitment to sustainability reflected in their campus infrastructure, activities and initiatives.
In addition, Eastern’s Institute for Sustainable Energy has a decade-long track record working with businesses, municipalities and organizations to identify, develop, and implement the means for achieving a sustainable energy future for Connecticut. The Institute focuses on matters relating to energy education, energy policy, efficiency conservation and load management, renewable energy, distributed generation, protection of environmental resources, and the dissemination of useful information on energy alternatives and sustainability to users and providers of energy.