Students Finish First Semester of New Sustainability Major

UT is on the leading edge—a green edge. It is one of the first large universities in the Southeast to offer a major in sustainability.

The interdisciplinary major offers a curriculum that enables students to learn the policy and procedures behind reducing the impact on the natural environment to create a healthy economy and meet the needs of citizens. Launched and directed by Mike McKinney, professor of Geology and Environmental Studies, the programs intent is that these students will be change makers in producing a sustainable society and environment.

“This generation can effect change,” said McKinney. “As a paleontologist, my time frame is millions of years so I realize that we aren’t here very long and we have to keep the place clean while we are here. We have to think long term.”

Fifteen students are completing their first semester in the major.

“I love this major,” said Nick Alderson, a senior. “I wish it had existed when I first came to UT. In all honesty, I believe that I have learned so much more about environmental issues because this major encompasses so many disciplines, from geology all the way to natural resource economics.”

The interdisciplinary curriculum spans law, business, and science, focusing in areas of economics and sustainability, resource management, ethics and sustainability and climate change. The university also offers a minor in sustainability.

“Being well rounded is at the heart of sustainability,” said McKinney, who also helped start the environmental studies program two decades ago. “You have to be a jack of all trades. Students in this major are exposed to many professors and courses in many major departments. They’ll get a chance to experience a much wider variety of ideas and skills than in a traditional major.”

The program culminates with a semester-long capstone experience in which students participate in a real-world setting such as an internship with UT, the city of Knoxville, a corporation’s sustainability office, or a nonprofit.

“The capstone experience is so important to the major as it builds the resume and it allows students to network,” said McKinney. “The specific internship will depend on the career goals of the student. For example, a business-oriented student will be encouraged to intern with a company that has a sustainability officer or project.”

Graduates may pursue positions as a sustainability director or enter into emerging sustainability graduate programs. Students may also pursue careers in public administration, policy, and business.

“A bachelor’s in sustainability will allow me to pursue careers in so many sectors of our economy today,” said Alderson. “In the future I hope to use the knowledge that I have gained from this major to help develop and implement environmental policy in the United States.”

For more information about the program, visit the program’s website.

The major is part of UT’s Make Orange Green environmental initiative. For more information, visit the Make Orange Green website.

C O N T A C T :

Whitney Heins (865-974-5460, wheins@utk.edu)

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