Sustainability certificate to promote green in curriculum

Terry Halbert, director of the GenEd program and overseer of a new Sustainability Certificate to be offered, explains the link between student interest and sustainability.

Terry Halbert, director of the GenEd program and overseer of a new Sustainability Certificate to be offered, explains the link between student interest and sustainability.

A sustainability committee of interdisciplinary faculty has recently been created to foster sustainability in education across the board at Temple. Terry Halbert, the director of Temple’s GenEd program, is overseeing the group, which is working on the creation of a sustainability certificate that will be available for Temple students to earn along with their degrees.

“We know that learning begins with what students care about, with what sparks their interest,” Halbert said. “And we also know that students are extremely interested in sustainability.”

Although two fairly isolated certificates already exist at Temple within the Fox School of Business and Ambler’s School of Environmental Design, the committee is working on the development of an umbrella certificate that will be similar to the requirements of a minor.

Incorporating elements of both existing programs while creating new courses, the certificate in sustainability will reach a larger and more diverse sampling of Temple students.

“Whether the focal point is science or political science, ethics or art, the courses will weave in sustainability as a theme,” Halbert said.

The environmental and sustainability certificate at Ambler will serve as a model in development of the new certificate. Ambler students take five courses through the School of Environmental Design to earn the certificate. Its purpose is to provide students with basic knowledge to evaluate environmental problems and draw ecologically and economically sound connections between environmental needs, policy issues, current research and design.

“As educators, we wanted to respond to the high interest level in this with a set of courses that will be available to any Temple student, from any one of the schools and colleges,” Halbert said.

The new certificate will also draw inspiration the Fox certificate’s requirements, like Dr. Lynne Anderson’s course Corporate Sustainability People, Profits, Planet, which is being offered for the first time Spring 2010. The course will survey local businesses, the local food movement, peak oil, green jobs, energy and other global issues that must be addressed at a corporate level.

Other courses may include Horticulture, Landscape Architecture and other already established environmental science GenEd courses, such as The Environment and Sustainable Environments.

The certificate in sustainability will incorporate methods of learning from both in- and outside the institution. The program, which includes a cluster of basic courses, will build up to a capstone that will incorporate experiential learning with hands-on work in a field that deals with sustainability. Students might, for example, do an internship with a sustainable business, green roof installer or other nonprofit in the Philadelphia community.

“As a generation, many realize they are facing what might be the biggest challenge ever,” Halbert said. “It’s not a world war. It’s a sort of war for the world. At this point, we have to find new ways to support and nurture life itself, human life, animal life, the life of the whole biosphere.”

Sierra Gladfelter can be reached at

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