Albion College and its French partner, the University of Versailles Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines (UVSQ), are taking a global approach to sustainability in more ways than one. The two institutions have recently signed an agreement to implement two new programs for Albion students that will involve them in sustainability studies on both institutions' campuses.
Students may choose either an undergraduate major in sustainability studies or a one-year postgraduate course of study based at UVSQ culminating in a certificate of sustainability studies which is equivalent to completing the first year of a master's program. The programs will provide a worldwide perspective on key environmental problems and solutions and will prepare students to advance sustainable lifestyles on a broad scale.
"This new program with UVSQ builds on the good work that Albion College has already been doing through its Center for Sustainability and the Environment," said Albion President Donna Randall. "We have much to learn from our European counterparts about incorporating sustainability into everyday life, and this international partnership will enable our students to see best practices in action and bring those practices back home to the United States."
Albion's major in sustainability studies will offer an interdisciplinary program melding the sciences, social sciences, and humanities for students wishing to prepare themselves to meet current and future environmental challenges. Students will explore the economic and political tradeoffs between protection of the environment and use of natural resources. Courses and research will cover issues such as climate change, sustainable agriculture, radioactive waste management, and preservation of marine and coastal ecosystems, while weaving these topics within themes of social justice and the democratic political process.
"The program will give students who have an interest in sustainability, environmentalism, and social action the skill set to transition directly into entities—both governmental and nonprofit environmental or sustainability organizations," said Andrew French, a professor of chemistry who has been appointed director of Albion's sustainability studies major. "The skills, courses and experiences these students will receive at Albion and in France will position them uniquely for those careers.
"The French have been offering advanced education in sustainability for years," French added. "The University of Versailles is among the top research institutions in the world, and it is one of the few that offers a master's program in sustainability studies. Albion already has a partnership [with UVSQ] through our sister city relationship in France so we are capitalizing on the opportunity."
Martin O'Connor, the director of the International Center for Research in Ecological Economics, Eco-Innovation & Tool Development for Sustainability (REEDS) at UVSQ, and Andrew French will begin teaching courses in the sustainability studies major this fall. O'Connor will use video-conferencing to communicate with staff and students at Albion in addition to making a two-week trip to Albion toward the beginning of the fall semester. Albion's sustainability studies majors will be required to take four units of courses at UVSQ in the fall semester of their junior year.
"Albion has always had a commitment to sustainability through the Center for Sustainability and the Environment," commented Susan Conner, Albion’s provost. "This is our next step, blending both our concerns for the environment and our goal to further internationalize our campus."