Walking through the Bluff Country Co-op, many shoppers can be seen perusing the aisles, placing organic goods into recyclable bags. Around the Winona State University campus, recycling bins are strategically scattered in every direction and students on bicycles or long boards overwhelm campus sidewalks. Throughout the Winona community, sustainable lifestyle choices can be seen; however, starting in the fall of 2011, WSU will be taking these choices a step further by offering an education in sustainability.
The new minor will consist of science, humanities and general education options to act as an accompaniment to the interests of students in any major. The content will include energy conservation, green building, sustainable lifestyle choices, transportation, green jobs and more.
The goal is to make the minor accommodating for a variety of majors throughout campus to enhance a student’s resume for future occupation, said Jeanne Franz, chemistry professor at WSU, specializing in environmental applications.
“It combines classes for [students] already focused in this area as well as others to fit for what you want to do,” said Franz.
Franz, with the collaborative efforts of fellow professors on campus, has been working on the design of this minor over the past few years to ensure its benefits in every major and occupation.
“I am a business major, so I want to work for a company that is concerned about the people, planet and profits,” said Ben Jacquier, a junior majoring in business.
Franz explained that within the next 10 years, a company without an energy and sustainability department will be as rare as a company without a human resources department. Because of this, an understanding of sustainability and real-life applications can put a person ahead of others in their field.
Many of the professors involved in the program see the urgency and importance of educating students on this increasingly popular subject, said Franz.
“Many students seem to only have an abstract understanding of the concepts when first coming to college, so I believe this is a great way to increase awareness,” said Candace Kairies-Beatty, geoscience professor at WSU.
The idea of sustainability has recently begun to gain popularity and, according to Franz, will only continue to do so, making the value of the minor a vital enhancement to any major.
“If we don’t start looking at creating a sustainable society, then there will be nothing left for future generations,” said Kairies-Beatty. “Educating students about these issues helps to prepare them for careers that might be able to address these issues.”
And the professors aren’t the only ones excited about the new program and its possibilities.
“It is relevant to so many different majors and can bring a lot of students with different perspectives together to learn about the topic,” said Jacquier. “There will be an increasingly high demand for people with knowledge about sustainability in a variety of fields.”
The minor will allow students to think in a more sustainable way, for just an additional 25 credits, said Franz. WSU faculty members are encouraging students to consider this minor as well as their impact on the environment.