New school welcomes first class this fall

This fall, the new School of Global Sustainability (SGS) welcomed the first class into its master of arts program – but only 20 have enrolled.

Introduced in January, the school, which offers the majority of its classes online, is the first of its kind to specialize in this discipline.

Christian Wells, director of the Office of Sustainability, said that the program is a “cohort experience designed to promote collaborative learning.” Although the school only offers eight courses, he said more will be added in the future.

“In the future, we will focus on other themes such as energy, the environment and climate change,” Wells said. “Hopefully, it can become more of an interdisciplinary major to help it really (grow).”

The program has “been in the works for several years,” Wells said, but relies upon students who are interested in the “green” movement, as well as economic and social issues, for it to prosper.

“I envision over the next year or so, the Tampa campus itself will become a laboratory and tangible arena for different kinds of experiments in sustainability to see what works in urban settings,” he said.

According to the school’s website, the curriculum consists of 33 semester hours, with a focus on water and environmental concerns. Nine credit hours are devoted to core courses, 15 credit hours to focus area courses and the final nine credit hours are devoted to an internship and sustainability project of the student’s choosing.

It also provides its students with an “on-campus intellectual center for shared engagement and facilitating the creation of integrated, interdisciplinary research teams.”

Shanae Gray, a graduate student majoring in global sustainability, said “the sky is the limit for this degree,” as it may provide students with a path to a career in any facet of sustainability.

“I want to become a consultant for companies, organizations, the government … just being that link between sustainability and their fiscal responsibilities to themselves and to their business,” Gray said.

Joy Ingram, a graduate student majoring in global sustainability, said she “wants to do something more,” but she’s not yet sure where the program will take her.

“I was kind of hitting that point in my life where I was feeling like if I was ever going to do that extra thing, that important thing, that I better start figuring out what it is and working toward it,” Ingram said. “I think this degree will take me there.”

The emphasis on sustainability is becoming “increasingly prevalent within our society,” Wells said, and the school was developed to be a place where faculty and students could come from any discipline to practice sustainability principles.

“(The school) is very holistic and inclusive, and we want to find ways to live within our own means without jeopardizing future generations,” he said.

– Additional Reporting by Laura Ray