Certificate in Sustainability offers students diverse experiences

Temple University's Certificate in Sustainability provides an opportunity for students to further their knowledge and skills to contribute to sustainable systems from the viewpoint of several different disciplines.

When Meredith Thomas completes her degree in journalism at Temple University this fall, she has planned a decidedly different path to take toward a career centered on helping make the Earth a better place than when she found it.

“On a whim, I recently purchased a one-way ticket to Reykjavik, Iceland, for after I graduate. I am not entirely sure what I will do there or how long my stay will be, but the concept of a country run nearly entirely on renewable energy is amazing to me,” said Thomas, who currently spends her free time working in the archives at both Temple’s Paley Library and the Academy of Natural Sciences. “After I return, I plan to move out to Seattle and hopefully work for a Seattle-based environmental news organization, Grist. The importance of thinking ‘green,’ of living sustainably today is knowing what is and what isn’t sustainable. I don’t think the issue is that people are unaware that changes need to be made; it’s more about awareness and educating people about how they can make necessary changes.”

Thomas is one of several students from a variety of disciplines who have decided to supplement their education with a green focus by enrolling in Temple’s recently developed undergraduate Certificate in Sustainability.

Offered through University College, the 12 credit, four course certificate “provides an opportunity for students to further their knowledge and skills to contribute to sustainable systems from the viewpoint of several different disciplines,” said Jacek Ghosh, Director of Sustainability Education.

“The certificate is designed to help students become effective leaders and agents of change for sustainability,” he said. “It makes our students more competitive in a rapidly changing job market where many sectors are incorporating green initiatives into their business plans.”

Twenty-three departments in eight different schools and colleges offer courses that may be used to complete the requirements of the Certificate in Sustainability, including the Fox School of Business and Management, School of Environmental Design, Tyler School of Art, College of Engineering, College of Health Professions and Social Work, College of Liberal Arts, School of Media and Communication and College of Science and Technology.

“It’s a certificate that is open to every major at Temple and it lays the groundwork to possibly offer a master’s in sustainability that is not discipline specific. We have a robust slate of courses and we want to expand our offerings from degree programs throughout the university,” Ghosh said. “A student can truly tailor their experience in the certificate to their own interests. For example, they could take a course from business, biology, ecology and the built environment and build an excellent framework for understanding green tourism.”

The first group of Temple students completed the Certificate in Sustainability this year, said Ghosh, and many of them are applying what they have learned in innovative ways.

Ivery Boston, who completed his undergraduate degree in Community and Regional Planning in May, is currently a Leadership Development Associate at Neilsen in San Diego, California.

“Thinking sustainably, you’re taught to develop a full understanding of the issues and a complete understanding of the needs of a given community,” said Boston, who also minored in Social Responsibility. “The Certificate in Sustainability is designed to develop effective leaders and agents of change. Those are skills that are very transferable.”

Boston said his particular interest has been the “social side of sustainability.” Combining courses such as Introduction to Design and the Environment, Corporate Sustainability: People, Profit and Planet; Environmental Law and Sustainability on the Ground, he said he gained a greater understanding of “how populations affect change on a global scale.”

“Everyone is thinking about sustainability today,” he said. “In terms of market research and market analysis, sustainability and being ‘green’ is often a driving force in the discussion, so I’ve come full circle.”

Sustainability, Ghosh said, “takes a large systems approach to things — you have to think two to three steps ‘downstream’ about how actions today will affect the world tomorrow.”

“You often hear about unintended consequences. You can’t avoid them all, but you can mitigate them and work to prevent them from happening again,” he said. “For any student who wants to directly impact their community, this program takes their interest and develops it into a marketable set of skills.”

Temple graduate Molly Atz said the Certificate in Sustainability was a natural draw for her as she has “always had an interest in protecting natural resources and the environment.” 

Atz, who transferred from Montgomery County Community College with an Associate’s Degree in Environmental Science, completed her degree in Environmental Studies in May. She began the Certificate in Sustainability in Fall 2013 with courses in Environmental Ethics, Environmental Planning, Art and the Environment in American Culture and Powering the Future.

“I have great interest in doing field work and research and would love to be a part of a conservation effort or non-profit organization. The certificate program meshed extremely well with my major and certainly met my goal of gaining more knowledge about sustainability,” she said. “The power of business and economic growth is unstoppable, and its impact is negatively affecting the environment as we know it. In order to preserve natural resources for future generations, we must spread the notion of practicing sustainability in business as well as in daily life.”

Thomas said she began the Certificate in Sustainability during her sophomore year after taking a course — Contemporary Issues in Designing and Managing Sustainable Cities — “changed my entire academic outlook.”

“The course made me realize how I could apply sustainable practices not only into my everyday life, but to my academic and career goals. My goal is to have a better understanding of sustainability, how it can be applied in life and gaining enough knowledge to go out and make a difference by encouraging people to incorporate sustainable practices into everything they do,” she said. “For the certificate, I’ve focused in part on food systems and food policy because I feel that is one of the major issues facing society today from both a health and environmental standpoint.”

Thomas said she believes most businesses and professional organizations “are in some way trying to become more eco-friendly.”

“No matter the type of company, more businesses are talking about the environment. They are thinking more sustainably,” she said. “By earning a Certificate in Sustainability, I feel I have much stronger skill set in the professional market.”

View a complete listing of approved certificate courses; filter by interdisciplinary certificate. For more information, contact sustainabilitycertificate@temple.edu or visit here. Download a program brochure.