UIndy’s sustainability major offers students more choices

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A new environmental sustainability major is furthering the University of Indianapolis’ effort to increase environmental responsibility at the local and international levels. This major is not focusing on areas such as biochemistry, as some might think it would, but instead on people.

Associate Professor of English Kevin McKelvey now heads the program started by Chair and Associate Professor of social sciences James Pennell. McKelvey stresses that this is distinctive in its curriculum because of its focus on the humanities.

“A lot of these majors are focused on policy or politics, but here we have a unique major that’s more focused on local and global environmental effects on people,” McKelvey said.  “It really builds on our strengths in social sciences and international relations.”

Sophomore international relations major Allie Kast added environmental sustainability as a minor because of the diverse applications it can have.

“The possibilities in sustainable careers are constantly growing and are just about endless,” Kast said. “The major at UIndy is great because you get several opportunities to explore the different fields through the classes you take.”

Kast hopes to pursue a career with international environmental policy or environmental law and believes this minor, combined with her major, will help her obtain a job in this field.

The need for this major is increasing because of nonprofits and businesses moving in the direction of adding sustainability, according to McKelvey.  Solar energy, recycling, access to healthy foods, air quality and the way those topics relate to community health are all growing environmental movements in Indiana and the Indianapolis area.

“This is really happening in a lot of different ways in a lot of different places,” McKelvey said. “It’s not just the scientific things or planting trees or greening areas.”

McKelvey said that while the major does stress human relations, it is not science-free. There are ecology and environmental science components, but the major stress is in human relations.

However, students are encouraged to double-major in areas such as biology or chemistry or any other number of interrelated majors.

McKelvey believes that this major pairs well with a host of additional minors and majors.

“That’s a real asset here. A lot of these 35-hour majors that we have allow students to take other things in conjunction with those classes—foreign language, sociology, international relations, communication, business. Students can major or minor in anything they want to do,” McKelvey said.

The broad range the environmental sustainability major offers is best illustrated by the senior capstone project. McKelvey described this as an individualized experience in which the student has the opportunity to take something that interests him or her and pursue it.

“Some students may do a creative writing essay project, or other students might do a social science research project, or other students might look at an international community and write about that,” McKelvey said. “It’s going to be a wide range, but we want it to be that because there are so many disciplines that are involved in the major. We wanted the students to be able to explore the discipline they are most interested in.”

Currently, the major has few students because it is relatively new. But according to McKelvey, they are advertising and recruiting in an effort to grow in number. For example, there will be an Environmental Careers Preview day at 9:30 a.m. – 11:15 a.m. on Friday, April 4 in UIndy Hall C of the Schwitzer Student Center for prospective and current students.

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