Green majors blossom across nation
Being green is becoming cooler as academic institutions see an increasing number of students majoring in the fields of environment and sustainability. According to the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE), more than 100 majors, minors and certificates were created at a variety of universities nationwide over the past year.
“I think it’s really exciting,” said senior Will Fischer, Student Union’s executive adviser for sustainability, leader of the Green Events Commission, and co-chair of the Special Executive Task Force for Sustainable Events. “It mirrors a nationwide increase in awareness of the idea of sustainability. I think it’s wonderful because I think universities need to pioneer the development of a more sustainable world. We are training the next generation of thinkers, scientists and engineers. It only makes sense that we follow what will be the big problems in our world.”
Many students nationwide are enthusiastic about the opportunity to engage academically in environmental issues.
“I don’t think there’s a significantly larger number of students who are interested in this here than at comparable universities,” Fischer said. “I feel like we’re pretty average in that concern. I think we’re feeling the interest a lot of universities are feeling right now.”
Student interest in “green” academic fields is rising due to the increased awareness of the importance of sustainability, according to Green Action President Peter Murrey.
“It’s really just an interest in the environment, realizing that we as a generation are at a crossroads,” said Murrey, a junior. “We are going to determine the future of how we interact with our planet. We need to be knowledgeable about how the planet works, how businesses work and how we, in general, impact our surroundings, and how the surroundings impact us as well.”
Additionally, the applicability of sustainability issues to a wide variety of fields makes it an appealing subject to study.
“[Environmental programs are] highly applicable to so many other disciplines: environmental economics, business, chemistry, philosophy,” Murrey said. “Students who traditionally had an interest in these fields and were interested in the environment before now couldn’t exercise that interest in the environment. But now they can broaden their horizons and incorporate the environment into these fields.”
At Washington University, there has been a marked increase in interest in environmentally focused classes over the past decade. The number of students enrolled in the environmental studies major, for example, has doubled over the past 10 years.
Many other departments are offering classes that incorporate environmental perspectives into other fields as well. For instance, in the political science department, students can take a course titled Environmental and Energy Issues. The engineering school offers courses on “Green Engineering.”
“Just about any class you can take is going to apply in some way to the environment,” Murrey said. “You can make your coursework fit a
Another reason students are choosing environmentally focused majors more than ever before is the demand in the workforce for employees with those skills. According to the AASHE, the Obama administration predicts that “green” jobs will grow by 52 percent from 2000 to 2016.
“I hope that in the next couple of years we will see growth in what we want to call the ‘green economy,’ and the idea of ‘green collar’ jobs,” Fischer said. “Hopefully, that ideal will start to really show itself, and jobs and positions all around the world will start to open up to people of all sorts of fields in developing renewable technologies, implementing renewable technologies [and] driving policy decisions. While it seems like a trend right now, it seems like a fad, I’m confident that it’s here to stay.”