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Students collect water samples for an Environmental Studies laboratory. The laboratory is part of UMKC's new Sustainability Minor, which integrates several fields of study.

Creating a sustainable future

Students prepare for green jobs with new Sustainablity Minor

With President Barack Obama planning to create 5 million green jobs and the Federal government funding a Kansas City Climate Sustainability Center, the University of Missouri-Kansas City (UMKC) is searching for additional ways to prepare students for green-collar jobs. Adding to UMKC's green arsenal of sustainability-focused courses, 80-plus member Sustainability Team, Clean Commute bicycle program, LEED-certified construction projects and an energy savings plan that will save about $1.6 million each year - students from all areas of study can declare a Sustainability Minor.

The 18-hour minor integrates a wide range of fields, including geosciences, engineering, ethics, urban planning and design, economics, history, philosophy, political science and public administration. Through in-class lectures and a local environmental sustainability internship, the minor will teach students about the planning and policies involved in creating sustainable changes in an urban setting.

"Sustainability is not just a buzz word," said Molly Davies, Associate Professor of Geosciences and Director of UMKC's Environmental Studies Program. "It is a perspective and academic area critical to our future, and it is an area that unifies the natural and social sciences. There is significant growth and demand for employment in this field worldwide."

Kaye Johnston, a senior Environmental Studies major in UMKC's Department of Geosciences and coordinator of UMKC's Campus Facilities Management will be the first UMKC student to complete a minor in Sustainability. The minor's relevance to a wide variety of fields and UMKC's Kansas City location - which allows students to participate in real-world projects - intrigued Johnston.

"This new minor is a tremendous step forward to educating students about what sustainability really means in terms of practical application in a wide variety of fields," Johnston said. "I expect to gain more in-depth knowledge that I will be able to apply to real-life situations here on campus and in the broader community."

Even before graduating, Kaye has contributed to campus sustainability initiatives as leader of UMKC's Sustainability Team - which includes more than 80 students, staff, faculty and community members. Through various initiatives, the Sustainability Team has helped UMKC save at least 6,596 trees, 384 tons of air pollution and 2.7 million gallons of water.

To complete the Sustainability Minor, a student must complete an applied project or internship and take one three-hour course in each of the following areas: Earth Systems and Resources, Sustainable Thinking, Sustainable Planning and Policy, Sustainable Design and Analytical Tools.

Thirty-one faculty members from the College of Arts and Sciences' Department of Geosciences (which includes Geography, Geology and Environmental Studies); Department of Architecture, Urban Planning and Design; Department of History; Department of Philosophy; Department of Political Science; Department of Economics; the Henry W. Bloch School of Business and Public Administration; the School of Law; and the School of Biological Sciences are contributing to the minor.

"The world and the U.S. are increasingly urban, and these urban areas must be sustainable to address climate change, environmental impact and livable societies," Davies said. "Cities and metropolitan areas are where the rubber meets the road for making financial commitments to addressing climate change. UMKC faculty members have been teaching and researching in this field for some time now and are deeply engaged with those in the Kansas City community leading the green changes."

Posted: July 9, 2009

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"This new minor is a tremendous step forward to educating students about what sustainability really means in terms of practical application in a wide variety of fields."

Kaye Johnston
Senior Environmental Studies major in UMKC's Department of Geosciences

Jamie McDonald, a senior Urban Planning student in the UMKC Department of Architecture, Urban Planning and Design (AUPD) helps a student plant vegetables at Crispus Attucks Elementary School in Kansas City, Mo. In line with its focus on environmental issues, AUPD is working to transform the school and surrounding area into a 21st Century Green Neighborhood.