By Alia Wilson
As global warming receives more media attention than ever before, college campuses nationwide are responding by offering more courses relevant to the critical issue. More students are realizing that career opportunities in the field of energy technologies are available, and students across the country are taking full advantage of such courses.
Clean energy courses are acting as a path to careers in alternative energies for students.
It all started at Vermont’s Middlebury College in 1965. It not only established the first U.S. undergraduate environmental studies major but also launched its students into steady careers.
Middlebury alumna Daniela Salaverry has a B.A. in environmental studies. She believes that clean energy courses are opening students’ eyes to the growing opportunities within the field of alternative energy.
“I think that more people are realizing that the environment is a part of everything,” Salaverry said. “It’s not just non-profits, in terms of career opportunities. More businesses are acknowledging that they are going to have to incorporate people who have expertise in alternative energy development.”
Salaverry is an example of the success that programs like Middlebury’s can bring. She is now the co-director of environmental projects in China for San Francisco-based Pacific Environment. There she assists 12 grassroots organizations to develop their capacities to connect to the international media as well as to program experts. These organizations spread awareness about issues such as water pollution and endangered species.
Here on the West Coast, universities are experiencing a similar trend of increased enrollment in environmental studies.
The Energy and Resources Group of UC Berkeley, founded in 1973, has over 320 graduates, all of which are masters and Ph.D students. Although the group has been around for 32 years, the recent demand for courses has departments making sure they provide a variety of courses to satisfy student needs.
Dan Kammen, energy professor at Berkeley, wrote to City on a Hill Press (CHP) in an e-mail that the university was one of the first to develop an energy-focused program and enrollment in energy courses has since exploded.
As public awareness of the effects of global warming continues to increase, colleges will continue to provide options to students seeking to be part of the development of alternative energy methods.
According to Michael Loik, assistant professor of environmental studies, UCSC was the first to offer a Ph.D program for environmental studies. He has noted a trend in increasing enrollment in environmentally conscious courses since he started teaching here in 2003.
This past fall, 166 students were enrolled in his global warming class at UCSC, a number that has more than doubled since the class was first offered in the year 2000.
Loik said that now is “a good time for somebody with a lot of imagination to develop new technologies, new businesses, and new products that minimize the impact on the environment.”