By Phillip Milano
Jacksonville, Fla. — Just in time for Earth Day, Jacksonville now has its first “green” college degree.
Jacksonville University has approved one of the few comprehensive Sustainability majors in the Southeast, part of a small but growing number of programs nationwide that encourage students to see how their personal choices can affect larger societal issues to help the environment and economy both thrive.
“We are going to get even busier guiding students to be prepared for the new economy,” said JU President Kerry Romesburg. “Our region has been hit hard by the recession, and novel approaches spurred by this Sustainability program are going to be needed so that businesses continue to grow.”
The new Bachelors of Science, Bachelors of Arts and Bachelors of Business Administration in Sustainability, which will begin this fall, will develop students’ abilities to make decisions that let complex social, economic and environmental systems work together to ensure each will flourish, said JU Sustainability Coordinator Marcel Dulay.
According to the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education, only about a fifth of all educational training programs in Sustainability offer a full Bachelor’s degree, and of those, only about 40 percent are at small colleges, offering a crucial niche for Jacksonville University.
“It’s preparing students so that they realize how in their daily lives they can behave, interact and work together to see how personal choices affect the greater world,” Dulay said. “Strictly from a business perspective, other countries are eating our lunch on this. How do we stay competitive and think outside the box to produce more efficiently and reduce costs?”
Whether something as simple as using recycled products on production lines to putting in place more complicated sustainable efforts, the Sustainability degree will take students beyond the “nuts and bolts” of traditional degrees and professions, he added.
“Employers are asking for this and know they can affect their bottom lines in a positive way. The Googles of the world? This is the kind of prepared student they’re looking for,” Dulay said. “They are seeing that we sometimes need to go beyond only the classic degrees in business, science and humanities, and really get into a type of holistic training that brings out the highest critical thinking and flexibility.”
Interdisciplinary courses offered will include various subject areas taught by JU faculty, in sociology, mathematics, statistics, business, philosophy, economics, management, law, ethics and more.
The program will also have a community component focusing on experiential learning, as students work, for example, with JEA on energy conservation, the Navy on water quality issues or local non-profits on topics such as urban agriculture.
“JU is really leading the way on this. Lots of students stay here in the community upon graduation to help make it a better place, and now they will help create an even more prepared workforce to revitalize the city,” Dulay said. “It’s the students who have a different type of training, lots of new ideas and multiple lenses to look at the world who will be making the major decisions.”
For more information, contact Jacksonville University Sustainability Coordinator Marcel Dulay at cell: (512) 415-3144, office: (904) 256-7343, or firstname.lastname@example.org.