By Jess Scanlon
Field trips to a farm and a sewage plant are not the average lab activities, but sustainability studies is not the average minor.
Rider’s newest minor, sustainability studies, which is in its first semester, takes an interdisciplinary approach on the topic of environmental conservation. The requirements for the minor span many disciplines including classes in business, philosophy and environmental science.
There is a focus on experiential learning through field trips to the Rutgers EcoComplex, an environmental research center, and Fernwood Farm, a Bordentown, N.J.-based farm that practices community supported agriculture. The multidisciplinary approach is designed to make sustainability a topic that is approachable to students from all majors, according to Dr. Laura A. Hyatt, associate dean for sciences and program director for sustainability studies.
“Sustainability is not just about hugging trees,” Hyatt said.
The variety of courses gives more than one perspective to sustainability, an objective Hyatt was looking to give when she designed the minor.
Eric Pezzi, a junior environmental science major and transfer to Rider from Ocean County College, was introduced to the sustainability studies minor by an adviser when he was in the transfer process.
“It covers a lot of different topics,” Pezzi said. “I like the variety.”
The minor only has seven students currently, but Hyatt remains optimistic that it will grow. She intends to expand the minor by targeting freshmen. Hyatt hopes to offer more courses in the spring semester when freshmen select classes for the first time. She also is attempting to get more professors involved in the minor in addition to building “support across the institution” and developing the new internship program further.
Hyatt, a member of Rider’s Energy and Sustainability Steering Committee, said that the committee convinced President Mordechai Rozanski to sign the American College and University President’s Climate Commitment. It is a document signed by more than 670 college and university presidents that recognizes global warming as an issue that must be brought to the attention of higher education, according to Hyatt.
This commitment includes “actions to make climate neutrality and sustainability a part of the curriculum and other educational experience for all students,” according to the Presidents’ Climate Commitment’s official website. The sustainability studies minor is Rider’s approach to this pledge. Hyatt said that making the minor as interdisciplinary as possible seemed to be the best way to encourage participation from a variety of students.
Adam Grossman, a sophomore economics major and sustainability studies minor, sees the practical side of the theories he learns in class as an Eco-Representative.
“The overlap shows teachers I’m dedicated,” Grossman said.
Jessica Canose, a junior Spanish and Latin American area studies major and now sustainability studies minor, became interested in sustainability after taking, The Environment: A Conflict of Interest, an honors course about the topic.
“I was really inspired,” Canose said. “It revitalized my thinking.”
She said that her studies have taught her to look at things differently than she previously did, such as to question where the products in her life came from and where they are going after she is done with them.