Tuesday March 27, 2018

Preparing Sustainability Professionals

The University of Dayton is preparing students and professionals to serve the common good by offering graduate education in the growing field of sustainability. In January, the University launched a new sustainability studies graduate certificate and the required introductory course for the certificate, Foundations in Sustainability, is being piloted during the spring 2018 semester.

The multidisciplinary program offers a graduate certificate in sustainability with a requirement of 12 semester hours, or four courses. The program is open to graduate students and professionals with a bachelor’s degree or four years of experience in their field.

Students can craft the program to their professional goals by taking two courses from a broad range of academic disciplines, in addition to the two required introductory and capstone courses.

“By its nature, sustainability is a dynamic and interdisciplinary field,” said visiting assistant professor Felix Fernando, who teaches the program’s foundation course. “We recognize that students will bring in their own disciplinary perspective into the certificate program.” 

Students can take electives in engineering, business, sociology, economics, the humanities, such as English and religious studies, and other disciplines to fit their field.

Students are able to apply their certificate education directly to their work in their field. For example, University alumnus and current certificate student Bryan Kinch ’16 is an engineer in building optimization practices at Heapy Engineering in Dayton.

“Inherently clean energy work is sustainability, so the certificate was a natural bridge for me,” Kinch said. “In concert with my degree and my profession, sustainability encompasses such a big part of my everyday life. ... I was able to take classes that applied to my everyday job in energy efficiency and renewable energy. And I got a solid base in the foundation class, which presents the different dimensions of sustainability. It helps you develop a deeper understanding, which in turn helps you conceptualize new projects and paths forward for clients.”

Students with the required preparation are able to take courses for meeting environmental and renewable energy standards in building design. Ward Scantlin, project architect at Levin-Porter Associates Inc. and a current student in the certificate program, stressed the importance of sustainability literacy in his work.

“We work a lot with engineering firms in the Miami Valley,” Scantlin said. “I thought the certificate could benefit my firm in allowing me to better understand sustainability, and in a practical way be a better partner and a better member of the design team, in working toward the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) goals.”

LEED is a set of sustainability standards the U.S. Green Building Council established to rank buildings on design and strategy in sustainable development with gold, silver or platinum certifications. The University of Dayton Chapel of the Immaculate Conception received the LEED gold certification after its renovation in 2015. All renovated and new buildings on campus must strive for at least LEED silver certification or an equivalent status.

“Through my everyday experiences I get to come into contact with building owners clients, and higher education entities, all of whom value sustainability.” Kinch said. “As the market moves towards a green-focused market, you are going to see more demand for an understanding of sustainability. That is the value that I see in this certificate.”

The University’s sustainability mission is derived from its Catholic, Marianist commitment to serve and advance the common good. The University of Dayton Hanley Sustainability Institute seeks to engage the campus and Dayton communities in implementing sustainable practices in business, public work and community life. The University has increased its efforts in sustainability research and practices in recent years in response to President Eric F. Spina’s vision for the University. Spina signed a pledge, along with nearly 700 other university presidents, to commit to sustainability efforts on college and university campuses.

“We are committed to be a University for the common good,” said associate professor Rebecca Potter, director of the sustainability studies program. “Our university president, Eric Spina, has focused on that. The $12 million gift from George and Amanda Hanley to establish the Hanley Sustainability Institute highlighted the need for a graduate certificate of this kind, as part of the mission to work for our common home.”

For more information about the sustainability studies graduate certificate, please visit the sustainability studies program website. Read about the launch of the program in this 2017 news story.

- Aaron Alford, graduate communication assistant, College of Arts and Sciences

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