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Community sustainability major coming in fall

March 18, 2022
Two women at screen in lecture
Geography Professor Samantha Kaplan led the development of the community sustainability major, which will start next fall at UW-Stevens Point and offer students the skills and experience to lead environmental efforts for the 21st century.

A new community sustainability major will be offered this fall at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, integrating the social, ethical and political dimensions of environmental sciences with the tools to foster community change.

The degree will include courses in several disciplines as diverse as psychology and chemistry. The program complements existing sustainability degrees at UW-Stevens Point that center on resource management, food systems and education. No similar program exists within the UW System.

Graduates in the new major will be poised to solve complex problems with training that melds science principles with the capacity to mobilize people and resources. Several new courses, including Sustainability as a Profession, will be added to the fall course catalog in this key area of study.

Geography Professor Samantha Kaplan led development of the community sustainability program. She said it caters to science-focused students who want to put their knowledge to work in building and developing sustainable organizations or communities.

“UW-Stevens Point is already a sustainability destination campus, and this program offers another avenue for our students to be part of the solution,” Kaplan said. As an educator, I want students to understand global challenges and prepare them to implement sustainability principles in their lives and professions.”

A huge strength of the program is that community sustainability will provide a foundation in environmental science and climate change as it leverages robust skills in urban planning and policy, ethics, justice and organizational leadership. “We haven’t had a way to bring all the expertise together before,” Kaplan said.

Several faculty members worked together to develop the curriculum, including Philosophy Professor Chris Diehm, who coordinates UWSP’s environmental ethics program. Those who major in community sustainability will also earn the environmental ethics certificate and fulfill requirements for the environmental justice certificate and the environmental studies minor. The major will provide internship experience in the community.

“Our university has expertise in natural resources science, but this will deeply integrate humanities and science, from the start,” said Diehm.

In addition to the first 40 required core credits, students will choose an emphasis track of either resilient urban systems and policy or environmental justice and community leadership.

Community sustainability graduates will be well prepared to use their knowledge for urban planning and development work and to address an array of justice concerns related to the environment. The new interdisciplinary major will provide a common experience for those students hoping to lead environmental efforts for the 21st century.