Sustainable learning: ESF creates new major to focus on efficient energy management

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As SUNY-ESF students prepare to register for classes next semester, they have a new major to consider when making their choices.

The State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry added a new sustainable energy management major after an eight-month approval process involving faculty, the SUNY system and New York state.

The major will be part of the Department of Forest and Natural Resources Management. The department hosts most of the management programs, so the new major was a natural fit, said David Newman, chair of the department.

The major is geared toward students that want to make a difference in responsible energy consumption, Newman said.

“The market that we see is for students who have an interest and concern in sustainability energy, and how it is utilized by companies, cities and towns, and how they are thinking for alternative energy courses,” he said.

Newman said he felt there would be sufficient interest and demand for this major based on feedback he has received and the growing popularity of sustainability energy across all fields.

“What is different about our program is that this isn’t an energy science program,” Newman said. “Our students are training to assist companies in their energy consumption choices.”

The major has followed in the footsteps of what was once the minor in environmental science and renewable energy, Newman said. It will be an interdisciplinary major that will combine courses in energy, management, policy, forestry and environmental science.

Despite only getting approval in August and introducing it to incoming freshmen and transfers only weeks before school started, 12 students have already enrolled in the new major, Newman said.

Ryan O’Connor is one of the 12 students who declared the major.

He said he chose it because it allows him to study microeconomics and management of renewable energy systems.

O’Connor said he is learning from ESF how to improve the marketability of renewable energy systems and make them more economically feasible and environmental friendly.

After graduation, he said, he plans to use his degree to work as an energy economist or a director for renewable energy for the federal government.

The major will focus on understanding how energy is used and how it affects the environment, said Michael Kelleher, executive director of energy and sustainability who is a faculty member in the program, in an email.

While the United States contains less than 5 percent of the world’s population, it consumes more than 20 percent of the world’s energy, Kelleher said.

“We need to engage people to think about the energy they use, get us all to use less, and make what we use more sustainable,” he said.

Newman said it has been a virtually effortless add-on as most of the classes already existed, although a few business classes are being added to make for a more comprehensive program.

The future for the major looks bright, as Newman said he is expecting more students to enroll in the coming year based on the interest level from incoming students that he met during open houses.


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