UCLA students seek latest eco-friendly classes
UCLA Extension offers new environmental program that integrates multiple disciplines
By Samantha Schaefer
Originally published in The Daily Bruin
Even after years in the workforce, Andre Villasenor has decided to dust off his college degree and hit the books again.
He has seen deforestation in the Amazon, large-scale mining contamination in Chile, pollution in Los Angeles and has four years of work at the Environmental Protection Agency under his belt. However, this fall he is returning to the classroom to further his environmental education.
Villasenor, a Southern California Sustainability Coordinator, is enrolled in Principles of Sustainability I: Environmental Dimension, part of the newest certificate program at the UCLA Extension, Global Sustainability, which will start this fall.
“I want to become more of an expert on environmental solutions and see what other students have to say,” he said. “I want to deepen the knowledge I already have, but from an academic point of view.” He added that he wants to stay up-to-date on environmental issues and the cutting-edge ideas that UCLA can provide.
The certificate program is geared toward integrating sustainability and green techniques into a variety of professions and offers classes in four fields: Design, Business Strategy, Energy & Technology, and Environmental Law & Policy, said Catherine Showalter, director of the UCLA Extension Public Policy Program.
The program is designed for both professionals seeking additional knowledge and for anyone looking to enter a green field, she said. The first core course, offered in the fall, will focus on basic environmental science behind issues such as climate change, as well as the development of the human perception of nature, said Walker Wells, a lecturer at the UCLA Extension.
“To really address these global challenges, it requires people who can think across disciplines,” said Wells, director of the Green Urbanism Program at Global Green USA. “A scientist who says, ‘I’ll do the analysis, and other people can figure out what to do with it,’ creates artificial boundaries. ... We need to be able to weave these things together.”
He added that he hopes his students will develop this type of integrated thinking in his class and learn how to apply the knowledge in their professions.
The program has been in development since October and has been received enthusiastically by students, administration and outside institutions and companies, Showalter said. It was developed from scratch and is multidisciplinary, which is what makes it different from certificate programs offered at other universities. It’s attractive to many students who have concerns about the job market and want to add a sustainability certificate to their resume, she added.
“A certificate stands alone, which is why it’s so valuable. It could be an addition to another degree or a totally separate certificate as a way to get in the door for an interview,” she said.
The curriculum was designed in conjunction with an advisory board comprised of a variety of professionals, professors and environmental experts in collaboration with other UCLA schools such as the school of Public Policy, Showalter added. Wells, who was also on the advisory committee, said that he’s seen a lot of enthusiasm from the Extension, and hopes that his students are equally excited, as his class is already fully enrolled.
Published: Thursday, September 10, 2009