Simpson to offer new sustainability minor

by Erin Gerken and Amanda Hintgen

Study, service, sustain.

Utilizing classes already in the curriculum, Simpson College will be offering a new minor in Sustainability starting Fall 2013.

“The Sustainability Studies Program includes curricular and community-engagement components to provide students opportunities to learn about the connections among environmental, social and economic issues and get hands-on experience working with complex questions related to the sustainable and equitable use of resources,” said Ryan Rehmeier, assistant professor of biology and environmental science and director of the sustainability studies program.

Freshman Amy West is just one student who may pursue this new minor.

“It would depend on what classes were required for it, but it is definitely something to look into,” West said.

Like other minors Simpson offers, there will only be five classes required, from various disciplines.

“The one required course is Environmental Issues (Biology 103),” Rehmeier said. “Then students choose four more courses from a selection of 17 classes designated among three major areas. This is a highly interdisciplinary minor, with classes available in economics, political cience, management, sociology, philosophy, history, English, natural sciences, chemistry and biology.”

Classes will not be the only component of the minor.

“(Students will also) complete an independent research project, campus- or community-service project, or internship related to sustainability or environmental issues,” Rehmeier said.

Rehmeier designed the program upon request for a minor related to environmental studies.

“It was enjoyable, because I could use some ideas that had been in my head for a while and bring in ideas I had seen for similar programs on other campuses,” Rehmeier said.

However, he did seek advice from his fellow professors while deciding on which classes to include.

“I consulted with Professor Lauren LaFauci from English on the classes and experiences to be included in the minor and the kinds of events we should bring to campus to support the program,” Rehmeier said. “There is also a Sustainability Studies Advisory Committee comprised of a few faculty members who will review and approve student proposals for the research, service, or internship requirement of the minor as well as help faculty develop new courses or modify existing courses to include them in the minor.”

This new minor could greatly benefit students in future occupations.

“(Students) could go into an (non-governmental organization), or a nonprofit, or environmental education, graduate school in environmental studies of all kinds including environmental interpretation, ecology, environmental humanities, environmental writing; it really is unlimited,” said Lauren LaFauci, assistant professor of English.

Numerous businesses are trying to incorporate “green” standards into every day functioning to reduce costs and attract earth conscious customers.

“A graduate with a Sustainability Studies minor would bring with them knowledge and experience with the economic, social, and environmental ‘triple bottom line’ and be able to make decisions that took multiple issues into account,” Rehmeier said.

This minor could be beneficial to many different students in various majors.

“I really believe this minor can complement nearly any major or minor,” Rehmeier said. “I can see it being especially beneficial to students with majors in the departments of business administration and economics, communication, political science, history, or social sciences, to name just a few.”

Simpson College administration and students realize the importance of a “green” campus.

“Even though many people don’t realize it, we impact the environment every day,” senior Casey Becker said. “People need to realize the harm we put on the environment by our everyday actions.”

“Picture all life on earth like a pyramid,” West said. “Each brick represents a different species. The brick at the very top represents humans. When a species goes extinct there brick is taken out of the pyramid. Obviously if enough bricks are taken out then the whole things falls over, the top brick included. It sounds rather extreme, but if environmental issues are not addressed many species will die and humans will follow. All life is connected, and what effects the environment is guaranteed to effect humans.”

Students will be able to officially declare the sustainability minor in the 2012-2013 academic year.

For more information about what courses will be available and other requirements of the minor, contact Ryan Rehmeier at [email protected] or 961-1823 or visit www.simpson.edu.