Green to Graduate

by Horizon Reporter

In our country’s quest for environmental sustainability, Whatcom Community College has taken part in the movement by promoting sustainability education and sponsoring events such as waste audits and Earth Days.

Currently, Whatcom boasts a sustainability club, sustainability committee, and now, a sustainability graduation requirement.

New Whatcom students will now be required to take one course designated under the new Sustainable Studies, or “S”, requirement.

The “S” courses will cover a variety of topics and answer a wide range of questions concerning sustainability, from “What were the values and beliefs of the Northwest Coastal Indians?” to “How am I helping the planet by driving a Prius?”

At least one-third of the curriculum of these courses are designed to “help students develop an understanding of the impact that human activities, including resource consumption, have on the Earth,” said Barry Maxwell, who teaches a course dedicated to the science, economics and politics of sustainable resource use.

A key player in designing the “S” requirement, Maxwell is the co-chair of the sustainability committee, of which he’s been a member since its inception.

“The requirement was something a lot of people wanted,” said Maxwell. “It wasn’t just one person, or the president of the school, for instance, saying, ‘Let’s do this!’”

The curriculum committee unanimously agreed to institute the “S” requirement after an overwhelming show of support by faculty and staff during a strategic planning meeting four years ago.

So, how are Whatcom student’s feeling about the new requirement? So far, there appears to be very little resistance.

“I’m not opposed to it or anything,” said Annie Goodall, 23. “If it’s a class I need to take to graduate, it’s no big deal.”

Even a student like Prenish Dutt, who admits to having no interest in sustainability, shows no aversion to an extra course requirement.

“It’s just another class,” said Dutt, 16. “It just sort of blends in with your schedule.”

Goodall and Dutt, along with all other Whatcom students who enrolled in the fall of 2010 or later, will be required to choose one 3-to-5 credit course from the 28 “S” courses offered.

Some of these are relatively new to Whatcom, such as the “Sustainable Business Practices” and the “Environmental History of The U.S.”. Others are revised, and often amplified, versions of older classes, like the “Natural Disasters” and “Intercultural Communications” courses.

“It’s a versatile subject,” said Maxwell. From physics to philosophy, there is an “S” requirement course for nearly every academic discipline.

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