Sign-ups for GW’s sustainability minor have tripled over the last year, giving the budding program a boost as it plans to hire its first executive director this year.
The 100 students who recently declared the minor gives momentum to the provost’s office as officials look to elevate sustainability into a signature program at GW.
Besides hiring the program’s first executive director, who would oversee the sustainability-related academics and research across the University, administrators are also planning smaller programs such as GW’s first alternative break devoted to the subject.
Forrest Maltzman, vice provost for academic affairs and planning, touted the program’s ability to engage students across GW’s engineering, business and liberal arts colleges and said the administration is “very proud” of the program.
In addition to a boom in student interest, the program has also massively expanded to count more courses. The number of environmentally focused courses, with an official “green leaf” stamp, has more than doubled to 130 since 2010, including new classes such as the Sociology of Food and Domestic Energy Policy.
All professors can apply to add a green leaf to courses that relate to sustainability. GW has also given out $15,000 in grants for professors to develop new courses.
Shannon Ross, a coordinator in the Office of Sustainability, said one of this year’s grant will help create a sustainability-driven alternative break trip, which students will attend as part of a class.
GW hopes that the popular short-term programs, which include a mix of international and domestic trips, will excite more students about sustainability at a time when administrators have set lofty goals for campus-wide recycling and reducing energy use.
“We’re hoping that sustainability will serve as a model in improving interdisciplinary coursework and research,” Ross said. “We think bringing on the executive director will lead to not only more sustainability learning, but to encourage interdisciplinary work in other areas as well.”
Lisa Benton-Short, associate professor of geography and the the program’s first academic director, did not return requests for comment.