Hofstra in the process of creating new major: Sustainability Studies

By Jessica Lewis
On February 16, 2011


Since the establishment of the Department of Global Studies and Geography in 2008, a student interest has been noted. As of press time, there are 106 global studies majors and minors, "which is a really really fast growth," said Professor and Chair of the Global Studies and Geography Department, Grant Saff.

With the increased popularity in this department, a new major, Sustainability Studies, is in the process of being created. "The way a major gets created, is it has to go through a proposal committee at Hofstra, and acquire state approval, that is why there is such a long gap between us [The Department of Global Studies] hiring the guy and starting it," Saff said.

‘The guy,' that is envisioned for the job of the Director of Sustainability Studies is Robert Brinkmann. Brinkmann comes from the University of South Florida, where he is a Professor of Geography, Environment and Planning.

"If everything works out, I will be on campus at the start of the Fall Semester," Brinkmann said.

"The way it happened is two-fold," Saff said, noting that student interest and the administration interest in sustainability helped this program to get off the ground. "Students have shown a lot of interest in sustainability, and globally it's a big issue."

Along with student interest, the administration has also showed an interest in ‘going green.' Many other campuses have also started offering programs in sustainability.

Saff believes that offering this new major will attract new students to The University. "Attracting new students, financially it is expensive, and we have to repay students, we have to offer them a relevant education," Saff said.

"The world is changing in ways that we cannot anticipate. We need to educate future generations about the environmental, social and economic issues associated with transforming out societies into sustainable communities," Brinkmann said.

With the increasing awareness of ‘going green,' green jobs are on the rise. Though the social sciences aren't normally a professional degree, Saff said that this job market is expanding.

"In addition, we hope our students will gain skills so they can work in a variety or private and public organizations," Brinkmann said. "As we transition into a greener economy, there are many opportunities for skilled professionals and green entrepreneurs."

"I think sustainability will be able to take advantage of the current situation, and any type of environmental job is growing, anything from construction technology to green building to recycling," Saff explained. "In a sense, we are responding to the financial crisis to give students a profession."

The Department of Global Studies and Geography hopes to create a 5-year program for students. Three years would be spent working on a Bachelor of Arts, and the remaining two years will let students obtain a Master of Arts degree.

"We also are hoping that sustainability will be interdisciplinary and will be working strongly with science, so it will straddle social and natural science," Saff said. "We are also planning to create a new program, hopefully a graduate program in geographical information system (GIS). A GIS is any type of system that stores, analyzes and presents data that are linked to the location.

If everything goes according to plan, fall 2012 will be the first time this major is offered.

"Once I arrive on campus, I will work with a variety of stakeholders to gain input as to how to structure the major," Brinkmann said. "Hofstra has a core group of faculty and students interested in sustainability issues, and I will seek their guidance and expertise."

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