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University of Iowa News Release

 

March 13, 2009

UI to begin offering new Certificate in Sustainability in fall 2009

Gone are the days when the environment was solely the purview of biologists, climatologists and engineers. If tomorrow's world is truly going to be greener, teachers, dental assistants, grassroots advocates, government leaders and even artists must be prepared to contribute to sustainable systems and practices.

To help put students on a path toward becoming effective leaders and agents of change for sustainability in whatever professional setting they choose, the University of Iowa will begin offering a new Certificate in Sustainability in fall 2009. The program will allow students to augment their majors and minors with a certificate that promotes an integrated understanding of human and environmental systems and the complex interactions between them.

To meet the certificate's requirements, students must complete 24 semester hours of course work that includes three introductory core courses, four electives from a designated list and one project course. Courses already required as part of a student's major or minor fields of study may count toward the certificate. Students must also maintain at least a 2.00 grade point average.

"The need for sustainable practices, awareness and ingenuity is going to grow exponentially in the coming years as the world manages diminishing resources and humanity learns how to better live within its means," UI President Sally Mason said. "Energy, society, culture, economics, construction and public policy all will be impacted. That's why I'm thrilled that the University of Iowa has taken this important step toward providing our students with the tools and academic framework to couple sustainability with whatever fields of study they choose."

The required courses include "Introduction to Sustainability," "Introduction to Environmental Science" and "Contemporary Environmental Issues." For their electives students may select from a wide array of courses offered across the disciplines, from "Glacial and Pleistocene Geology" and "Wetlands: Function, Geography and Management" to "History and Environment in Africa" and "Planning Livable Cities."

The required projects will address advanced problems in design, sustainability and education, multimedia writing on the topic of a green economy and other relevant issues. One option, for example, is a course offered through the UI College of Engineering's Civil and Environmental Engineering Department that provides students the opportunity to work in interdisciplinary teams to propose solutions to problems faced by people in the developing world. Students study and develop the appropriate technologies required to improve water and sanitation, energy, housing, and health. 

Barbara Eckstein, an associate provost and professor of English in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, chaired a task force of faculty and staff from eight colleges that developed the certificate, which she said is accessible to any undergraduate student.

"Whatever students' career goals, understanding the ties that bind economic development, environmental protection, and equity is key to their future," Eckstein said.

An interdisciplinary advisory board will oversee the certificate's implementation. The board members are Jim Throgmorton, a professor in Urban and Regional Planning; Laura Rigal, an associate professor in the Department of English with a joint appointment in American Studies; Mark Reagan, a professor of igneous petrology and geochemistry in the CLAS Department of Geoscience; Christy Moroye, an assistant professor in the College of Education's Department of Teaching and Learning; and Craig Just, adjunct assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering, associate research scientist at IIHR-Hydroscience & Engineering and coordinator of sustainability programs in the UI College of Engineering.

The certificate is just one of many ways in which the university is strengthening its commitment to sustainability as outlined by Mason in an Earth Day address last year. Despite the flood of 2008 and the ongoing recovery, as well as the significant budget challenges presented by the downturn in the national economy, the university has made important strides toward developing a greener campus and curriculum.

Soon after her address, Mason established a Sustainability Steering Committee and in November appointed Liz Christiansen the university's first director of sustainability. Already, the UI diverts about 30 percent of its general waste stream through recycling practices. And the UI is ahead of schedule in its goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 6 percent by 2010, as required by its membership in the Chicago Climate Exchange, of which the UI was an early member.

In January, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency lauded the UI for reducing carbon emissions at its power plant by using one system to generate both heat and energy, saving the equivalent amount of carbon stored by 11,232 acres of pine forests for one year or the emissions from 8,046 passenger vehicles. The plant burns oat hulls to reduce its reliance on coal by 20 percent and may serve as a model for a new power plant under consideration that could eventually provide 100 percent renewable energy at the Oakdale campus.

UI faculty and students are getting in on the act, too. In February, student leaders and the UI Environmental Coalition presented a series of sustainability panels as part of the National Teach-In on Global Warming 2009. And student members of the UI College of Engineering's chapter of Engineers for a Sustainable World, working with faculty advisor Craig Just, recently won a first-place award from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for designing a $5, hand-held device to sanitize water and potentially save lives in developing countries.

Greg Carmichael, professor of chemical and biochemical engineering in the UI College of Engineering, is using a $750,000 NASA grant to examine the atmosphere above the Arctic -- a natural receptor of smoke and forest fire pollution from northern Europe, Asia and North America that creates a visible arctic haze. And Larry Weber, director of the UI's world renowned IIHR-Hydroscience & Engineering research unit, is using the flood of 2008 as an opportunity to develop better ways to predict future flooding, and help communities live more sustainably near volatile waterways.

Even economic development should benefit from the UI's commitment to sustainability. The UI College of Engineering is involved with the newly launched Iowa Alliance for Wind Innovation and Novel Development (IAWIND), a partnership among the regents universities, community colleges, industry, and the Iowa Department of Economic Development, designed to support the state's efforts to attract and nurture wind energy and related industries in order to become the nation's leader in alternate energy technologies.

For more information on the plan and other UI energy conservation efforts visit http://energy.uiowa.edu/.

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Services, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 371, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500

MEDIA CONTACTS: Barbara Eckstein, associate provost, 319-335-3565; Liz Christiansen, Office of Sustainability, 319-335-5516; Stephen Pradarelli, University Relations, 319-384-0007, stephen-pradarelli@uiowa.edu