Growing with the Times; New Institute for Applied Sustainability offers hands-on Environmental Studies courses
Sept. 15, 2010 -- Environmental Studies at Western State College (WSC) is growing at such a rate that a new hands-on program, the Institute for Applied Sustainability (IAS) is being offered this semester.
"Introduction to Photovoltaics" is one of the many courses offered through the new Institute for Applied Sustainability
Western began its Environmental Studies major in 2000 with 37 students; 10 years later 100 more students have declared the subject as their major, bringing the number to 140. The IAS offers courses in addition to the academic curriculum, offered through the College’s Extended Studies program.
This weekend, the Colorado Straw Bale Association is hosting its annual Natural Building Conference at the WSC College Center. The conference is the first major event for the institute, and includes workshops, home tours and presentations all related to more sustainable ways of construction.
A free public keynote address on energy and sustainability by Randy Udall, one of the nation’s leading activists in promoting energy sustainability, also is incorporated into the weekend, and will take place at 7 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 18 at the WSC College Center.
The IAS offers courses to both community members and WSC students. In addition to the Natural Building Conference, course topics for this semester include: solar energy, backyard food production, food preservation and sustainable building design. Students also can earn a certificate of completion in the program by taking eight courses. Prices range from $80 to $270 per course.
“The main mission for this program is to offer courses outside of the Environmental Studies curriculum that are hands-on and offer solutions to some of our environmental problems,” said Jonathan Coop, director of the IAS.
“This program will be a place to start thinking about what we need as a society to make a transition to a more resilient and sustainable economy, and our students are very eager to be a part of that,” Coop said. “If a student or a community member wants to learn how to put solar panels on a house, grow food in their backyard, or do an energy audit of their home, they can do that through our program.”
Coop added that the curriculum would be great preparation for someone looking to attain a “green job” down the road.
Colleen Smith, a 2002 WSC graduate, is taking the two courses related to local food production this semester. Smith is also a volunteer with the local Mountain Roots community garden project.
“I’m taking these courses so that I can learn how to grow more and buy less from the store,” Smith said. “To buy organic at the store is so much more expensive, and if I can grow it I can save some money.”
Coop said that one of the reasons behind the program is that many Environmental Studies students at Western were interested in more hands-on opportunities related to sustainability.
“Our students tend to be very interested in getting out and doing things related to the environment,” Coop said. “They are really passionate about how, as a community, we can become more sustainable and home grown.”
WSC students, who make up the majority of those enrolled in the courses thus far, will take the courses in addition to their regular course load.
The IAS has pooled a wide range of experts from the community to teach the various courses. Community garden aficionados Beth Coop, Rose Tocke and Jan Scheefer are teaching “Basics of Food Preservation”, Jason Pozner and Lena Wilensky of Nunatek Alternate Energy Solutions are teaching “Introduction to Photovoltaics”, Andris Zobs of the Office of Resource Efficiency is facilitating “Sustainable Building Design”, Eric McPhail of the Colorado State University extension office is facilitating “Backyard Food Production” and local straw bale builder, Steve Schechter, is leading up the Natural Building Conference this weekend.
“We’re fortunate to have experts in our community in these areas, and we’re utilizing them to teach many of these courses,” Coop said. “By using local instructors we hope those who take the classes will realize that the solutions to a lot of our environmental problems are right here in our community.”
Most of the courses are still open for registration, and can be accessed online through WSC Extended Studies at www.western.edu/extendedstudies. Extended Studies also can be reached at 943-2885.
Story by: Luke Mehall, assistant director of public relations and communications