Hood College pioneering the field of sustainability studies

·4 min read

May 15—Last fall, Hood College became the first higher education institution in Maryland to offer a degree in sustainability studies.

Now, students at the Frederick college are able to major in the field through a fully developed program.

Drew Ferrier, director of sustainable studies at Hood, said the college has offered similar academic classes in the field of environmental science for years, but the faculty eventually evolved to feel there needed to be an even greater focus on sustainability.

The new program is different than typical environmental science, Ferrier said.

"Sustainability focuses first on human well-being, and everything emanates from that, so basically we ask the question, 'How can we live in a society and in an environment that promotes human well-being, not only for people that are here right now but for generations to come?'" Ferrier said.

Sustainability is all about longevity and creating solutions to problems that have plagued the planet and humans for years, but the solutions take a long-term approach rather than a quick fix.

Hood's program focuses on hands-on and experiential learning. It emphasizes the three areas of food, water and energy. The program partners with other initiatives that are already in place at Hood, including the Center for the Coastal and Watershed Studies and the Frederick Food Security Network.

"Our students get to have hands-on, real-world experience in working in those three areas ... and oftentimes they are doing this in a service-learning capacity, so they interact with and we give back to the greater Frederick community," Ferrier said.

The program is still in its infancy, and there are only about a dozen students in the program. But as campus begins to open back up, Ferrier said he hopes to market the program to more students and show how they can pair it with other areas such as business, marketing and communications.

"[Students] have the opportunity to shape their career in a lot of different directions," Ferrier said. "This degree is a really good jumping-off point for people who want to get into business because so many corporations and businesses now are concerned, not only about their financial bottom line but their environmental bottom line."

Emily Griffin, a junior at Hood, is among those combining her passions. She is a business and sustainability studies double-major. She decided to take on sustainability studies in her course load after being introduced to sustainable farming and agriculture by a friend.

"I always had an interest in doing things that were more waste-free ... I've always practiced a sustainable diet, but that never went any further," Griffin said. "Now I'm enjoying learning about the other areas of sustainability."

Griffin likes the program because it allows her to connect with the Frederick community and help make a difference on a local level.

"With the gaining popularity of sustainability, I think it's important now more than ever to be a part of this demand for change," Griffin said. "Hood adding this program will not only build and strengthen the institution, but it also helps build opportunities and open up doors for students."

Sam Hull, a sophomore sustainability studies major, said he has always had a love for the outdoors because of his grandfather, who worked for the Environmental Protection Agency.

Hull sees enrolling in the major as a way to honor the memory of his grandfather.

Having such a program at college campuses is important, Hull said, because of the growing push from the younger generation to address climate change.

"We as a generation are making the revolutionary movement ... but the major problem is still kind of above us in the system," Hull said. "But I think we have realized that we can do our best and do little things to help."

Griffin said Hood having the sustainability program will help propel students into the future. She hopes the courses help students and others realize that living a sustainable life isn't that difficult.

"Sustainability is something that anyone can do ... you can do your part to make a small difference, and all of these little things add up to something that's greater," she said. "Once you understand and realize that, you're one step closer to our world being more sustainable."

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