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Applying Sustainability Principles to Real-World Problems

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PHOTO: This fall UW-Madison students will be able to enroll in a Sustainability Certificate Program which will teach them to apply sustainability principles to real-world problems. (Photo courtest of UW-Extension)
PHOTO: This fall UW-Madison students will be able to enroll in a Sustainability Certificate Program which will teach them to apply sustainability principles to real-world problems. (Photo courtest of UW-Extension)
 By Tim MorrisseyContact
June 16, 2014

MADISON, Wis. – As sustainability becomes more of an actual practice than just a buzzword, the University of Wisconsin’s Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies this fall will begin to offer a 12-credit Sustainability Certificate to undergraduate students interested in how decisions today impact our collective tomorrow.

Professor Cathy Middlecamp, who will teach one of the courses, says increasing numbers of students are concerned about the world they will shape.

"I would never venture to speak for all of the students,” she says. “But I can say with pretty good authority that the students that I have enrolled in one of my courses, which is an environmental science course, at least half of them are there because of some interest they've thought about – energy, food, or some other aspect of their life and how sustainable it is."

Nelson Institute Director Paul Robbins says what makes this generation of students revolutionary is its concern about the future of our world.

He points out that business majors, engineers, history students, music students and all types of other students are interested in applying sustainability principles to real world problems.

Middlecamp points out the certificate program provides opportunities for innovative approaches to teaching.

"I'm now asked to teach when I'm doing sustainability, topics that don't have quick and easy answers,” she explains. “There's no particular book I can assign, and furthermore if there were such a book, the answers wouldn't be in the back of it.

“So from a professor's point of view, it's absolutely a delight."

Middlecamp uses examples of energy, food, transportation and waste management right on campus to help students understand sustainability.

She says the training will also give students a boost in the job market, because employers are looking for people with knowledge and skills in the principles of sustainability.


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