Deans and professors are in the process of creating a green curriculum that would bring together existing sustainability courses under one program, making it easier for students to eventually compete in today’s eco-friendly job market.
‘Green is everywhere. It is no longer just a trend,’ said Patricia Gaynor, assistant director of Transition and Employment Services in the Career Center.
‘We get employers from architecture firms, waste management, engineering and other businesses,’ Gaynor said. ‘All of them are looking for students who know what it means to be green.’
Ashwani Vasishth, assistant professor of urban studies and planning, initiated CSUN’s Greening Project.
A Core Green Committee was created to research and develop the new curriculum.
The committee participants include Stella Theodoulou, the dean in the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences, William Jennings, the dean in the College of Business and Economics. Deone Zell and Nancy Kurland, assistant professors in the Department of Management, also comprise the committee. Diane Stephens, director of academic resources at CSUN facilitates the project.
If approved, the program will provide a graduate certificate through Extended Learning that would include courses in carbon market management, green business practices, green manufacturing, engineering and ecological planning.
An interdisciplinary graduate degree program would also be established to provide a general education concentration in sustainability by pulling together existing courses from various departments.
Students interested in competing for green jobs earn degrees in environmental sciences. But in today’s job market, the need for green skills has expanded beyond the science curriculum. Students have to hunt through the CSUN catalog to find classes in areas of urban planning, interior design and business management to get a complete education in sustainability.
‘We are trying to make it easier for the student to select these courses and develop a specialization,’ Vasishth said. ‘This is a participatory process. We’re asking faculty, staff and students for input.’
The committee sent a survey to departments across campus in an effort to assess existing courses that may fit into the sustainability program. The 75 respondents indicated a wide-range of interests in the program. Among them were faculty members from the art, economics, health sciences, marketing and geography departments.
The committee will be adding green courses from these departments, and many more, to their database as they continue to develop the new curriculum.
The budget for this program has not yet been established, but there are already concerns that the sustainability curriculum will take students away from other programs.
‘It’s a turf war. It’s all about enrollment. Departments’ budgets are based on their enrollment numbers,’ Vasishth said. ‘But we’re not taking students away from them. The courses will stay in the various departments. We’re just reorganizing the courses to make it easier for students to select a green concentration.’
Steven Graves, assistant professor of geography, said, ‘I think it’s a good idea. We don’t have anything like it yet.’
‘But I’m a little concerned that it might take away from geography and sort of ghettoize the green stuff,’ Graves said. ‘There is always that political element, but in the long run, I don’t think it will hurt us. Geography has always been concerned with complex environmental systems.’
The Geography Department at CSUN teaches students how to create digital mapping that allows businesses to make decisions about where to put their waste materials. The maps also provide information on soil, wind direction and surface waters.
‘There are so many areas that constitute green,’ Graves said. ‘I think we’re behind the curve right now compared to other campuses like Cal State University, Chico. We’re here in smog city where we really need a green curriculum.’
Other courses that may be added to the sustainability program fall under the Department of Management. These courses provide students with an understanding of corporate responsibility and green manufacturing.
The department also has courses that help students examine a corporation’s carbon footprint, which requires executives to analyze recycling and energy consumption practices to find more efficient ways to conserve.
‘We’ve reached the tipping point,’ Nancy Kurland said. ‘We’re at the point where we have to do something now. I think that’s part of what’s driving peoples’ interest in this.’
Program development began this summer and will continue throughout the year.
Students who wish to participate may contact Ashwani Vasishth via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.