Sustainability will be essential to the formulation of sound environmental, economic, and social progress in the 21st century. It is important for academic institutions to provide students with broad opportunities to pursue their interest in this pivotal topic. The Five College Sustainability Studies Certificate program (FCSS) is designed to engage students in a structured course of study that will draw on courses from across the campuses in a range of disciplines. Students will also complete an internship, independent research project, or advanced course work in sustainability studies. On each participating campus, program advisors will work with students to design a course of study tailored to students’ interests and faculty strengths at the Five Colleges. The FCSS program has identified three core course areas and five concentration areas for elective study based on current student interest as well as Five College faculty expertise. These elective concentration areas are: (1) Agriculture and Food Systems, (2) Energy, Climate, and Water, (3) Culture, History, and Representation, (4) Politics and Policy, and (5) Green Infrastructure, Design, and Technology.
Requirements: A minimum of seven courses are required for the Five College Sustainability Studies certificate program. At least five of the courses must be above the introductory level, and two of the five courses must be at the advanced level.
Students will complete 3 core courses in the areas of “Environmental Sustainability,” “Sustainable Economy and Politics,” and “Sustainable Society and Culture” (one course from each area). Students will also complete a minimum of 3 courses in one of five concentration areas (Agriculture and Food Systems; Energy Systems, Climate, and Water; Green Infrastructure, Design, and Technology; Politics and Policy; Culture, History, and Representation); another course should be chosen from a different concentration area. (One of the required core courses may also be counted toward fulfillment of the concentration requirement.) At least one of the concentration area courses must be at the advanced level.
Core Courses (3): The core courses are intended to expose students to the interconnectedness and significance of economic, environmental, and social aspects of sustainability. All students are required to complete three core courses, one from each of the following areas: (1) Environmental Sustainability; (2) Sustainable Economics and Politics; and (3) Sustainable Society and Culture.
Concentration Area Courses (4): Students pursuing a Five College Certificate in Sustainability Studies must choose an area of concentration from the following five areas of study. Students will take at least 3 courses within their declared concentration area (at least one at the advanced level) and one other course chosen from a different concentration area. The following descriptions place the concentration areas in the broad context of sustainability and detail how inquiry in these areas is vital to understanding sustainable systems.
I. Agriculture and Food Systems: By its very nature, food is central to society, culture, and basic survival. However, our current, predominantly industrial agricultural system takes a reductionist approach to growing food, with minimal concern for the resulting environmental, economic and societal impacts. In order to maintain our agricultural and food systems into the future, an integrated approach which takes environment, economy, and equity into account is critical. In this concentration, students will integrate the science, technology, policies, and ethics of agriculture and food systems, and will examine the relationships among agriculture, food choices, nutrition, and economic and social well-being.
2. Energy, Climate, and Water: More than ever before, society is coming to appreciate the complex inter-relationships between energy use, climate change, and global water availability. The production and consumption of fossil fuels is the leading source of greenhouse gases promoting climate change, which affects not only temperature but also precipitation patterns. Any effort to slow or reverse the process of global warming requires a fundamental shift to cleaner energy technology; likewise, any effort to adjust to global warming requires improved water management in order to ensure adequate water supplies. This concentration explores the changing nature of global climate and the solutions required for sustainable energy and water management in the 21st century.
3. Culture, History, and Representation: Nature was once autonomous but at least for the past 50,000 years, humans have dramatically affected nature. We cannot understand and promote sustainability without understanding the ways humans have constructed nature, both symbolically and materially. Indeed, the social construction of both nature and sustainability has given rise to conflicts over meaning and policy in the wake of growing environmental awareness and activism. This history has often been portrayed as elegy--what we have lost. But we also have to acknowledge what we have gained. This concentration invites students to explore the tension between notions of progress and loss, a tension which itself promotes the desire for sustainability. It challenges the student to consider the constitutive role of culture in defining nature and sustainability across a range of public discourses and practices.
4. Politics and Policy: In many parts of today's world, people and environments suffer from ecological degradation, resource scarcity, economic decline and social exploitation--none of which promotes sustainability. Transitioning to sustainability will require societal and political action at local, regional, national, international and global levels. In some cases, new norms, laws, treaties and institutions will need to be crafted and enforced in order to improve environmental and other standards. In other cases, people whose livelihood practices sustain and depend on human and ecological communities may challenge policies and political systems that favor environmental and social exploitation. The politics of sustainability will be full of contest and conflict, but it carries the transformative potential to build a far better world. This concentration will examine the role of governments, businesses, non-governmental organizations, community groups and others in devising, supporting, fighting over, negotiating and enacting sustainable policies and practices.
5. Green Infrastructure, Design, and Technology: For the first time in history, more than half the world’s population now lives in cities. A sustainable future for seven billion people therefore requires sustainable urban systems, buildings and infrastructure. The aim of this concentration is to provide a broad understanding of the challenges, strategies and opportunities that face modern society as we seek to move toward more sustainable built environments. The concentration includes the study and practice of design, as well as planning policy. The course selections and project work in this concentration will examine the interrelationships between urban design and planning, ecosystem processes, green building technologies, policy-making and social equity.
Internship, Independent Research Project, or Advanced Study in Sustainability Studies. Students will work with their campus program advisor to identify and complete an internship that leads to an independent research project that addresses a contemporary, “real world” problem. Alternatively, students may work with their program advisor to identify a suitable advanced course within their concentration area. Approved internships that lead to an independent research project, or an independent research project (e.g., a special topics course or an honors thesis) or upper-level course within the area of concentration may be counted toward fulfillment of the advanced course requirement.
Internship opportunities: The FCSS program will work with campus committees and offices to compile a list of available internships on each campus as well as a list of internships (domestic and international) available to Five College students. In addition to funded internships on each campus, opportunities for a Five College Sustainability internship program will be explored.
Capstone Symposium: Advanced students will present work fulfilling this component at an annual symposium. For these presentations, students will be encouraged to consider the ways in which their projects address the core areas of sustainability and their linkages.
Certificate Application Form/Declaration of intent: Students will submit to their campus program advisor a Declaration of Intent, outlining a potential course of study, by the second semester of their sophomore year. They will complete and submit Applications during fall of sophomore year. Completed applications will be reviewed and approved by a committee composed of program advisors from each participating campus.
Advisors: On each campus, program advisors will work with students to design courses of study fulfilling program requirements while tailored to students’ special interests. At Amherst College the following faculty members will serve as advisors: Professors Jan Dizard (Environmental Studies/Sociology), Anna Martini (Geology), Edward Melillo (Environmental Studies/History), Joseph Moore (Philosophy), Sam Morse (Asian Languages and Civilizations/History of Art), Katherine Sims (Economics), and Ethan Temeles (Biology).