Introducing the Sustainability Studies Minor at Pratt Institute

PrattlogoBeginning in the Fall 2013 semester, all interested Pratt Institute undergraduates may declare for a minor in Sustainability Studies.  The minor in Sustainability Studies at Pratt deepens the understanding of the interdisciplinary approach to sustainable environmental, economic, and social practices, providing students with a broad understanding of the complex interrelationships between humans and ecosystems and the best practices for protecting environmental quality and fostering social equity.   The minor can be combined with any undergraduate major and requires the completion of 15 credits approved in Sustainability Studies.

Two 200-level courses are required for all students in the minor.  Students are required to take the common core course SUST 201 The Sustainable Core as well as MSCI 270 Ecology (or the equivalent MSCI 271 for Architecture majors, or MSCI 280 for Construction Management majors), as these two courses provide foundations in ecological literacy, social justice, and environmental justice. SUST 201 The Sustainable Core, which I will teach this fall Monday afternoons from 2-4:50pm,  involves the participation of faculty from several other departments at Pratt as guest lecturers.  This gives students the sense of how particular professions (such as industrial design or architecture) relate to broader socio-environmental issues including fair trade, zero waste practices, and environmental justice.

In addition to the two required courses, students may take 9 credits at the 300 or 400 level from a variety of options.  Several, such as PHIL 356 Environmental Ethics, IND 487 Sustainability and Production, INT 332 Environmental Theory, and MSCI 426 Toxics in the Environment, are existing courses in the undergraduate catalog.  Two new additions to the catalog are SUST 401 Power, Pollution, and Profit and SUST 405 Production, Consumption, and Waste.  I taught special topics versions of each of these new courses last spring and will offer each again next year.  (SUST 405 is offered as a SS 490 Special Topics course in the fall.  The course is currently registered at its capacity.)

I am delighted to co-ordinate this new minor. When I decided to come to Pratt last year, the Institute’s existing sustainability initiatives included incubation of startup firms devoted to sustainability, community outreach both in its immediate Brooklyn environs and throughout New York City, graduate programs on planning and facilities management, a center for sustainable design studies, and a plethora of undergraduate courses approaching sustainability from disciplines ranging from architecture to philosophy. This new minor shapes an interdisciplinary program from several of those courses,providing students a broad overview of sustainability problems, concerns, values, and approaches.

For me, the chance to introduce this minor is irresistible. My work is concerned with the consequences of consumption and waste on the environment and society, including unintended consequences of the disposal of mass-produced goods, stigma associated with handing wastes, and particular attention to the ways in which attitudes concerning waste and society shape each other over time. Pratt students are creative leaders who shape art, fashion, industrial design, and the built environment in ways that will affect consumption and waste streams long after I am gone. The minor, as well as SUST 201, SUST 401, and SUST 405, are unusually vivid opportunities for this historian to apply my training and concerns to improve the future.

I look forward to working with the initial cohort of interested undergraduates, and students curious about the minor may contact me with questions.

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