Sustainability Senate creates certificate open to students in any major

Illustration by Amanda Dixon-Shropsphire | The Signal

With the threats of climate change and pollution ever-looming, there is a need for more professionals trained, taught and inspired to tackle these issues head-on.

To encourage this career pathway, the Office of Sustainability is now offering a geoscience certificate in sustainability for students interested in this field of work. The only issue is finding interested students.

Open to any major, the certificate requires only five courses, including an internship in geosciences or biology. Three courses — urban studies, environment conservation and the internship — are required, while the last two courses can be chosen from a wide range, including anthropology, economics or even journalism. 

There’s also a fellowship program to pay students completing this certificate for their internships.

The great thing about the certificate is that anyone across the university can do it,” Christy Visaggi said. 

Visaggi is the undergraduate program director of geosciences as well as the director of the certificate program. 

“With courses across disciplines, it has a lot of flexibility,” she said. 

Her most notable students have moved on from Georgia State to the Atlanta Regional Commission, Oceana, the National Science Foundation and the EPA. Graduates of geoscience even set up a hydroponic farm atop Patton Hall, growing leafy greens.

The Sustainability Senate met Feb. 28 in the College of Law, deliberating long about the future of this program. Discussion sometimes led to arguments over semantics; many within the senate felt that the term “science” should be omitted since it misrepresented what the program actually entails (a combination of natural science, geography and demography) and therefore repelled students.

One member of the senate pitched the idea that the program could instead be a minor. She said that demand for such a program among the student body was unknown. But, the idea drew criticism within the senate, mainly regarding the rigidity of a minor when compared to a certificate. Unlike a minor or major, with a certificate, some said, you could “double-dip,” or go into multiple areas of study at once.

Employability was a top priority for the senate. A common concern for students is whether a certification, be it a degree, a minor or a certificate, will be worth the time and money and will lead to desirable careers after university. The senate, throughout the meeting, concerned itself with how the certificate could “translate to the employer landscape,” as one member put it.

Visaggi revealed that new courses may be added to the list next semester, including Sustainable Development: Practices and Policies “as one of the core options.”

With the inclusion of internships and fellowships, as well as the coverage of a multitude of topics related to sustainability, Visaggi believes that this program can continue to flourish and create a stronger framework that connects different areas of studies and combines the hard and soft sciences. 

“[The Senate] could help educate the student body about their options,” she said.