Bucknell students as positive actors for sustainability

Nicole Adler, Contributing Writer

In the final report from a study done in 2013 by Second Nature Education for Sustainability entitled “Advancing Bucknell University’s Sustainability Leadership,” this organization put forth a large range of suggestions explaining how the University can become an industry leader in sustainability.

In particular, their comment about the student body warranted attention: “With a few dedicated exceptions, students have not played an important role in driving progress on sustainability, unlike at other institutions where students are spearheading efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, divest from fossil fuels, bring local foods to campus, etc.”  

Why is it that our student initiatives are less apparent on University campus while other universities similar to ours have launched student-led projects that engage large percentages of their campus? It cannot be a lack of passion or engagement because it is quite apparent that we have an active and well-rounded student body.

We need to find new ways to ensure that the students on campus adopt sustainability as a priority just as the University itself has. Sustainability has been outlined as one of the five overarching areas of focus for the University campaign, and it should be very important to the University that its students are fully involved in these efforts.

One possible way to get more students engaged inside and outside of the classroom is the creation of a sustainability minor. This minor would not be solely a management program nor one in the environmental studies department, but rather an interdisciplinary approach to sustainability that is catered to the student’s particular concentration. Implementing this academic opportunity into our University would encourage more students beyond those in the Managing for Sustainability (MSUS), Environmental Studies (ENST), and Sustainable Design programs to develop their interest in sustainability.

This minor would require the completion of at least one approved course in the engineering, management, and arts and sciences disciplines, with a total of five courses. The two required courses would be Managing for Sustainability I (MSUS 300), which provides the student with a solid foundation of sustainability knowledge, and Managing for Sustainability II (MSUS 301), which culminates in a sustainability action project.

Not only would this stimulate more interest in these areas of our curriculum, but a sustainability minor would also facilitate more student involvement in campus sustainability efforts. For example, this weekly installment in the Bucknellian is initiated by the student projects from MSUS 301. In this course, each student is assigned the task of proposing a project in an area of sustainability at the University. Courses like these that inspire action from class learning are what will make our University a leader in sustainability among institutions of higher education.

Students in the sustainability minor will also be motivated to join the existing campus sustainability initiatives that are currently lacking sufficient student involvement. The University would also be breaking new ground among universities of its kind. While sustainability minors have been implemented in universities such as George Washington University and Penn State University, we would be one of the first liberal arts institutions to have this progressive minor to supplement our existing programs.

Without an informed, involved, and passionate student body, we are limiting our progress in this field. A sustainability minor would broaden the scope for the type of student who is taking action to make the University a more sustainable institution.

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