Colorado Mountain College’s sustainability scholars study real-world solutions
These days, it’s hard to switch on a television or pick up reading material without being bombarded with information about scarce natural resources, the impacts of climate change or irresponsible business practices harming the environment.
“Whatever side of the political fence you are on with those issues, they do impact where you live,” said Colorado Mountain College vice president Dave Askelund.
Because sustainability issues impact politics, the economy and quality of life, it’s become increasingly important to expand the public’s knowledge of these issues, he said.
Colorado Mountain College’s bachelor program in sustainability studies is designed to do just that.
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“People who are informed about issues regarding sustainability, and have that breadth of information and knowledge, are only going to be a help to society at large,” Askelund said. “They are going to be the people businesses and organizations look to in the future.”
CMC instituted its bachelor’s in sustainability studies in 2011 and graduated its first students in May.
Now in its third year, the program continues to evolve and strengthen connections with sustainability experts in the community, CMC staffers said. The faculty is made up of professionals in the field in Summit County who teach on a part-time basis. Among them are Brian Potts, from Summit County planning, Jen Schenk and Jen Santry from High Country Conservation Center and Jessie Burley from Vacation Roost.
“We are really fortunate in Summit County to have people who are truly skilled, educated and have a wealth of experience — and are willing to share that with our students,” CMC instructional chair Nicole Fazande said.
CMC’s curriculum takes a holistic, real-world approach to sustainability.
“A lot of times when people think of sustainability they think of a ‘save the planet’ type of thing,” Askelund said.
The college bases its sustainability curriculum on the three E’s — economics, equity and environment.
This broad concept was adopted to allow students to see whole-picture solutions that advance not only human well-being, but also the health of the planet.
Students put their education to use participating in real-life sustainability projects — teaming up with organizations like High Country Conservation Center and Summit Greasecycling.
“Our partnerships in the community have definitely evolved over time, which allows us to offer experiential opportunities for our students,” Fazande said. “It really allows them to pick an opportunity and a path and move forward with it.”
College staffers said a diverse range of students have gotten involved in the program. They come from a variety of backgrounds and range in age from adults rethinking their career paths to students fresh out of high school.
“What I think is most exciting about the program is the students and how they shape the program,” Fazande said. “I get to visit the classrooms and at any given time the students are brainstorming ideas for solving global issues, and at the same time thinking about ways they can contribute locally.”
More information about CMC’s Bachelor of Arts in Sustainability Studies can be found at http://www.coloradomtn.edu/bass.
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