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Sustainability studies minor to begin this fall

Grace Wang, an environmental studies professor, is the academic program director for Western's new sustainable studies minor. The minor will cater to students seeking to study sustainability and will look at the subject from a variety of academic fields. Photo by Alexandra Bartick
A new minor will be available for Western students seeking to study sustainability, which is the ability to preserve economic, environmental and social systems. Sustainability studies, an environmental studies minor, was created by the WWU Sustainability Academy. The faculty involved meet together to talk about addressing students’ interest in sustainability. The minor will go live in the fall, said Grace Wang, an environmental studies professor and academic program director for the new minor. The minor will be between 24 to 29 credits and will cover more than just environmental science, including subjects from art, history, industrial design, political science, business, biology and more. Though the minor is provided through Huxley’s environmental studies department, the program is not Huxley-exclusive, Wang said. “In fact, I really want to make a strong point that this is considered an all-university minor,” she said. Wang said she defines sustainability as maintaining a good quality of life. “Another way to think about sustainability is this intersection between economic, environmental and social quality of life,” she said. In this way, she said it meets the long-term needs of all three concepts. Student demand for a program to study the subject has always been there, Wang said. Wang is part of the WWU Sustainability Academy and this demand is why she and her colleagues created a curriculum committee to address student interest, she said. The sustainability studies minor will offer an overview of how different fields consider sustainability, Wang said. “One of the things I’m most proud of is that for students who take the minor, they can take classes in almost every college on campus,” Wang said. “From Fairhaven to fine and performing arts to humanities and social science and science and engineering – there is a lot of availability of classes that will meet the needs of the minor.” Western sophomore Gwen Larned, a business and sustainability major and zero waste coordinator at the Office of Sustainability, said she thinks the new minor will help students realize that sustainability isn’t just a buzzword. “I think it’s pretty cool since sustainability’s a pretty broad subject and can apply to pretty much anything that you want it to,” Larned said. “It just gives you a much more positive, well-rounded view on the world in a way. So it kind of gives you a direction to aim for, as far as equity and fair business and that sort of thing.” James Loucky, an anthropology professor involved in the WWU Sustainability Academy with Wang, is involved in one of the many sustainability-related fields. “It can bring in law and business and arts and humanities and natural sciences, and so sustainability is one of those things that really touches just about everything that we do,” Loucky said. To apply for the minor, students need to first take the Sustainability Literacy I course, which will be offered this winter.

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