New Undergraduate Program in Sustainability Surpasses Enrollment Expectations

Jan. 18, 2013

What trade-offs are we willing and able to make as individuals and as a society to achieve a more sustainable economy? What are the best policies, including the right incentives for individuals, firms, communities and nations, to reach these sustainability goals?  These are some of the questions that dozens of Ohio State students are investigating this semester as part of their coursework as students enrolled in the Environment, Economy, Development and Sustainability (EEDS) program.  EEDS, one of the University’s newest undergraduate majors, launched in the fall of 2012, has proven to be a great success with more than 45 students enrolled at the end of the program’s first semester.  This figure is higher than originally anticipated by the program’s administrators.

The EEDS major is a multi-disciplinary degree program that focuses on the human, environmental and economic dimensions of sustainability – often referred to as people, planet and profit. This cutting-edge program provides the core knowledge and skills students need to launch a career in sustainability in the private, public or non-profit sectors.

During the autumn 2012 semester EEDS students were invited to many special activities offered through the program, such as presentations from students who had recently held sustainability-related internships, as well as field trips to Central Ohio organizations that practice sustainability as part of routine business operations.

All EEDS students take an integrated set of courses in environmental economics, business management, environmental sociology, community and international development, ecological engineering and environmental sciences. Students build on this foundation by choosing to specialize in one of four program areas: sustainability and business, environmental economics and policy analysis, community development, or international development

The start of the second semester of the program brings several cutting-edge, brand new courses to the University as part of the EEDS curriculum.  These include new coursework focused on sustainable economic development and the role of social change in environmental management.

“Regional Economics and Sustainable Growth”, one of the new course offerings that is taught by AEDE’s Dr. Alessandra Faggian, is designed to introduce students to the theories and methodologies used in analyzing rural and regional economic development with a particular focus on sustainability in advanced economies.

“Community, Environment and Development” taught by Dr. Jeff Sharp from Ohio State’s School of Environment and Natural Resources (SENR), which is also a new offering, aims to familiarize students with the connections between social change, natural resources and the environment. The course focuses on community-level initiatives, environmental social movements, and issues of environmental justice.

“The Sustainable Economy: Concepts and Methods” taught by AEDE’s Dr. Elena Irwin aims to introduce students to the core concepts of sustainability in economics and to the quantitative methods necessary to understand and evaluate sustainable development. This brand new course draws heavily from environmental and resource economics and also incorporates a number of concepts from ecological economics. The course aims to challenge students to define a sustainable economy, which requires that they grapple with unresolved questions about the sustainability of our current economic systems.

In discussing the value of her new course, Dr. Irwin notes: “I am thrilled to be developing and teaching this course for the first time ever in spring 2013. This course brings together the latest concepts, methods and tools in economics and sustainability science. Students learn about the global challenges of sustainability and how markets for ecosystem services are starting to emerge. In addition, they learn practical methods that provide them with the knowledge and skills to assess the sustainability of economic activities within a metropolitan area, state or country of their choosing.”

EEDS is a joint major between SENR and AEDE, in the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences at Ohio State.  Additional University partners include the Fisher College of Business; Department of Food, Agricultural and Biological Engineering; City and Regional Planning; International Studies; Center for Resilience; John Glenn School of Public Affairs; and the President’s and Provost’s Council on Sustainability.

To learn more about the EEDS program, please visit the program’s website. To support projects and activities of students in the EEDS major, click here.

Image: EEDS students on a trip to the Quasar Energy Plant.

January 18, 2013