A week ago, I was pulling cardboard across the frostbitten ground, the sun already arcing downward at 4:30, lighting the surrounding fields up like a scene from an Asher Durand painting. I was up at the Hilltop gardens, at the newest addition to the campus garden project, putting the beds to rest for the winter (while also feeding them nutritious cardboard and dead leaves). Looking back on this moment, and on all the other fantastic sustainability projects that are continuously happening around campus, I feel so excited for the possibility of a concrete academic counterpart to this extracurricular realm.
As a part of my internship with the IUOS, I have been offering support and a student presence to the Environmental Studies and Sustainability Committee, along with my fellow student Julia Denison. The committee met weekly throughout the semester to draft a proposal for a sustainability-related degree, discussing such things as the degree’s name, what shape the introductory course will take, how to structure the concentrations, and how to ensure both breadth and depth in the degree. The goal was to create an academic program focused on sustainability that incorporated both the liberal arts and science-in comparison to the BSES’s mostly science-minded approach. If everything goes according to plan, Indiana University may boast of a B.A. and a minor in Environmental Sustainability Studies within the next couple of years.
In developing this degree, IU is making itself more competitive with the number of universities which already offer sustainability degrees. Arizona State, University of Illinois, University of Oregon, and Duke are among the universities who currently have such a degree. While using these programs for some suggestions, our committee sought to make a degree that complemented IU’s unique academic offerings and student population.
In its current proposed form (though some changes can be expected), the degree will include a team-taught introductory course which will help verse students in the basics of environmental sustainability while integrating both the science and the humanities aspects of the field. Then, students will pick from a variety of courses from certain categories such as Skills/Research Methods and Trans-disciplinary Courses. The degree includes a concentration requirement, where students can choose from Sustainable Food, Environmental Ethics and Justice, and Resource Sustainability (including energy, water, etc.) or they can seek approval for an independent concentration. The degree concludes with a Culminating Experience Requirement, which can be met through a relevant internship, relevant study abroad, an independent readings course, or a colloquium.
The degree still awaits final approval, but if it becomes reality, I think that it will perfectly complement the work of all the sustainability-minded students on campus.
Written by Sara Swan, Intern for the Academic Initiatives Working Group