Texas schools going green with college curriculums

HOUSTON (AP) – Texas colleges and universities are increasingly building environmental practices into curriculums, a move officials say is a combination of “good business” and idealism.

Sustainability, a wide-ranging field of study to prepare students for a more environmentally conscious world, is showing up in various forms in academia, the Houston Chronicle reported Sunday.

The University of Houston has a class about carbon trading, a commodities market designed to protect the environment, while Rice University offers minors in energy and water sustainability.

Community colleges, boosted by stimulus funding and federal grants, push green technology work force training, from installing solar panels to building wind turbines. Architectural degrees have for some time focused on sustainable designs.

Sunshine Mathon said his 2007 master’s degree in architecture from the University of Texas in Austin is essential in his job with a nonprofit housing group based in Austin.

“It’s not that hard, at least in Austin, to find a general contractor or architect who is aware that’s the coming trend and they need to get on the bandwagon to be competitive,” he said.

Pedro Alvarez, chairman of the civil and environmental engineering department at Rice, says green is “good business,” while a UT-Austin official says students are interested in environmental issues.

“It’s not only a prerequisite to get a job but also something that genuinely appeals to this generation, how they could contribute to a better world,” said Barbara Brown Wilson, UT’s assistant director of the Center for Sustainable Development.

Rice began its program last year, based on the premise that business and technology leaders need more than technical training to achieve what Alvarez calls “a triple bottom line – to make sure that whatever they design is economically feasible, socially desirable and environmentally viable.”

Paul Rowland, executive director of the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education, said it’s not yet clear how the programs will shape graduates’ careers.

“They take positions that in some cases may not look all that different than if they didn’t have a degree with the sustainability stamp on it,” he said. “But what they’re bringing into those positions is a more systematic way of thinking about what they’re doing.”


Information from: Houston Chronicle, http://www.houstonchronicle.com

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