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Schools Expanding Green Career Degree Options

By CityTownInfo.com Staff
August 10, 2009

Colleges and universities are responding to a surging interest in green careers by offering more opportunities for degrees in sustainability.

"The past few years, society as a whole has become increasingly interested in sustainability," said Julian Dautremont-Smith of the Association for Sustainability in Higher Education, who was quoted in USA Today. "Higher education has been swept up as well."

A new program at the University of Pennsylvania, for example, allows students to earn an MBA and a master's in environmental studies at the same time. And at Harvard's Graduate School of Design, students can now concentrate in sustainable design--a program that was driven by interest from students and changes in the field.

"Over the past few years, there has been an increased interest and pressure to provide this knowledge in more depth, whereas before, maybe a class would have been sufficient," noted Christoph Reinhart, associate professor of architectural technology at Harvard's design school. "Now there's an expectation that more of these skills are being learned."

The green trend is clearly catching on. Newsweek reports that at least 27 sustainability-themed programs, degrees or certificates were launched in 2007, up from just three in 2005. The degrees are available throughout the country in a wide range of academic disciplines, including agriculture, engineering, business and interior design.

"You need people who are experts in chemistry, political science, law, geography, in order to really grasp sustainability," explained Robert Melnick, executive dean of Arizona State University's School of Sustainability, which was founded in 2007. He noted that enrollment at the school is "over the top."

In a nod to the trend, Mercer County Community College in New Jersey recently announced the creation of two new green career programs: A credit certificate program in solar/energy technology, and a noncredit certificate program in Green Future Management for professionals in architecture, engineering, real estate, government, nonprofit management and sales.

Jim DeHaven, vice president for economic and business development at Michigan's Kalamazoo Valley Community College, noted in USA Today that the school's new 26-week training program in wind turbine operations will undoubtedly provide a "fast track to employment."

Yet Newsweek points out that students interested in pursuing green careers are not just considering jobs; they are seeking to join a movement. "Students are really gravitating towards this," said Jay Friedlander, who directs Maine's College of the Atlantic's new Green and Socially Responsible Business program. "They're seeing that if you want to effect change in the world, you can do so with a powerful business model that improves society."

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