Mercyhurst launches new programs in sustainability studies



In keeping with its emergence as a leader in environmental sustainability among Pennsylvania colleges and universities, Mercyhurst College today announced the launch of a new major in sustainability studies beginning this fall. Besides the new Bachelor of Arts degree, Mercyhurst is now offering a post-baccalaureate certificate in sustainability studies and introducing new coursework at its west county campus in Girard.

Mercyhurst is widely recognized for its commitment to renewable energy, sustainable food production and student engagement in a range of environmental initiatives. The college’s sustainability advances, including last year’s decision to purchase 100 percent of its electricity from wind power, was recently the focus of a PBS Greenlife Pennsylvania documentary.

Since 2006, Mercyhurst has offered a sustainability studies minor and a concentration in sustainability studies within the chemistry and biology departments. In recent years, the college began customizing coursework for students interested in majoring in sustainability studies. The “contract major” continues to generate interest among an increasing number of students, which prompted the college’s decision to convert it to a new major with its own curriculum requirements.

“We know that issues of sustainability are penetrating virtually every field of endeavor,” said Dr. Chris Magoc, associate dean of the school of social sciences and chair of the Mercyhurst Green Team. “We also recognize that sustainability is becoming more and more salient for young people, including helping to influence the choice of where to attend college. We believe the formal establishment of our emerging sustainability studies academic program will serve our students well while enhancing our growing profile as an institution that is more committed than ever to sustainability.”

Likewise, as a college that stresses experiential learning, those students majoring in sustainability studies will have access to many hands-on learning opportunities to prepare them for positions in a broad range of careers, among them sustainable building designers, business assistants skilled in analyzing environmental impacts from a company’s practices and completing environmental risk audits, sustainability consultants and coordinators, teachers and researchers.

Among the experiential projects Mercyhurst sustainability studies students have worked on in recent years:
• Organized a “Pedal for the Planet Duathlon” that raised $3,000 for the design and installation of bike racks in the city. This event was spearheaded by Emily Monahan of Erie, who graduated in May as the college’s first contract major in sustainability studies.
• Assisted community leaders in trying to establish a network of urban gardens;
• Helped conduct energy audits aimed at reducing energy use in the Erie School District;
• Conceived and researched the idea of a green roof on a wing of the college’s science hall;
• And engaged in the development of organic farming projects at the Mercyhurst farm in Girard.

Meanwhile, Mercyhurst offered its first post-bac sustainability studies certificate this year, earned by Robert Crowe, and, based on more requests, has elected to continue the certificate program next year, said Dr. Mike Campbell, who oversees that initiative. Campbell is also the impetus behind several new academic programs now being planned for the college’s west county campus, which will be announced in the near future.
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