Colleges Focus on New Energy Courses, Efforts
Community College Times
By Julie Garrett, Published May 29, 2008
Community colleges are positioned at ground zero in the shift to a renewable energy-powered world. That was the take-home message of keynote speaker Rusty Stephens at the National Conference on
Sustainability for Community Colleges last month at Lane Community College (LCC) in Oregon.
"Sustainability is the next Industrial Revolution. In terms of economic opportunity, it will dwarf all previous economic revolutions. And community colleges are at its heart," said Stephens, president of Wilson Community College (North Carolina).
Renewable energy technicians and installers will need training. Builders will need continuing education in green construction techniques. And the public will shift to thinking green and adjusting their lifestyles to adapt to a changing energy system, Stephens said.
"Community colleges are here to help communities make that transition," he said.
Presentations at the conference covered a range of categories, from operations and climate change, to curriculum and institutionalizing sustainability. Host LCC, which is considered a leader in the sustainable campus movement, was recognized nationally with the 2006 Campus Sustainability Leadership Award presented by the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education.
"We were getting a lot of calls about what Lane is doing and how we can help other colleges get their sustainability programs going," LCC President Mary Spilde said. "As a result of that, we saw the conference as a way to bring people together, coordinate our efforts and to share best practices to really advance the sustainability movement."
To integrate sustainability at Butte College (California), the college first offered a lunchtime series on sustainability topics and stipends for faculty members who wanted to develop new courses or infuse sustainability topics into existing ones, said Melinda Riley, a sociology professor at the college who also coordinates its Clear Creek Curriculum Sustainability Project.
The college used learning outcomes to measure new courses’ effectiveness through place-based learning projects and service learning, Riley said. Butte has also created transfer pathways with local universities, a step Riley called "a must."
Another idea for sustainability curriculum comes from a project based in Puget Sound, Wash. "Curriculum for the Bioregion: Connecting What We Learn to Where We Live" is a cooperative learning project sponsored by the Washington Center for Improving the Quality of Undergraduate Education. Thirty-two educational institutions are participating in place-based learning opportunities, including summer faculty learning communities.
In the Midwest, Cuyahoga Community College (Ohio) recently started its Green Academy, offering LEED green-building certification training and courses to train students in the principles of sustainability, green construction, interpretation of green bid specifications and increased energy efficiency.
"We’re responding to demand from area contractors," said Patricia Pietraroia, program coordinator for construction industry training at the college. "They told us they were being bombarded by green bid specs and demand for green installations."
Beginning next month, Northeast Wisconsin Technical College will offer certificates in solar and wind renewable energy, sustainable design, sustainable food supply and bio fuels—all online. The courses filled within two days of listing the descriptions on the college’s Web site, according to Amy Kox, the college’s manager of renewable energy technologies.
Renee Lafrenz, a senior program associate with the Green Campus Program of the Alliance to Save Energy, said the organization employs student energy interns at 12 California campuses to help create measurable energy-saving projects.
Students at California State University–Chico did energy assessments of campus offices and convinced the college to install a network-based power management software program to save energy in campus computer labs. Their efforts helped save $50,000 annually in energy costs, Lafrenz said.
The alliance is looking to expand its Green Campus program to other states. It’s great work experience for students and gives them a leg up on the emerging green-collar job market, Lafrenz said.
Garrett is a communications specialist at Santa Fe Community College (Florida).