Thursday, February 3, 2011

Liberal Studies Program to Offer Interdisciplinary Minor in Sustainability

Student at outdoor table in leafy setting.
Over the past decade, CSUN's campus-wide sustainability programs have put the University on the cutting edge among environmentally progressive institutions, acting not just to conserve and produce energy but to lay meaningful groundwork for ongoing stewardship on and off campus. Among the latest major campus initiatives, the Liberal Studies Program in the College of Humanities will offer students an academic Interdisciplinary Minor in Sustainability, debuting in Spring 2011.
With many CSUN students having been raised in the Los Angeles area, an atmosphere rife with severe environmental problems and the worst air quality in the nation, the University community takes a personal interest in creative solutions to problems related to worldwide population growth and rapid depletion of already tenuous energy reserves, clean water supplies, and sustainable food. Through the Interdisciplinary Minor in Sustainability, students will not only learn about the issues they are faced with amid today's delicate and volatile landscape, they will be provided tools so that they can proactively address these problems at personal, business, and governmental levels.

Three new core courses are being introduced with the new Minor—Interdisciplinary Perspectives in Sustainability, Best Practices in Sustainability, and Applied Sustainability; the last offers a service-learning component to ground students in real-world evaluation and problem-solving. The Minor complements a diverse array of academic majors—including education, environmental studies, resource management, policy, engineering, and business management—and many applicable courses will satisfy requirements or can be taken as electives in other degree programs. Its curriculum is designed to ground students in the concepts and best practices of sustainability, with an emphasis on environmental, economic, and social justice factors in both short- and long-term planning. "Students will be prepared for a career in a changing world where business decisions are based not only on economic factors but increasingly on externalities such as costs to the environment," says a statement from the College of Humanities. "They will be versed in new and emerging technologies and ready to serve in a world of diminishing resources."

CSUN's commitment to environmentally sound principles is both visible—the solar panels in the B2 and E6 parking lots; the ubiquitous Associated Students recycling bins; a preserved five-acre orange grove and botanic garden—and less apparent: a grid-connected fuel cell plant that operates at twice the efficiency of utility companies; an Ethernet-linked weather-sensitive irrigation system that determines water needs based on rain, temperature, and humidity levels; and wide-ranging considerations in the designs of the new Valley Performing Arts Center and the forthcoming Student Recreation Center. Through the College of Humanities' new Interdisciplinary Minor in Sustainability, the Office of the Provost's Institute for Sustainability furthers the University's longstanding mission to promote, facilitate, and develop campus operations, research, and curriculum related to environmental stewardship.