New major pairs sustainability and business - The Western Front: News

New major pairs sustainability and business

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Posted: Friday, May 24, 2013 8:14 am

A new business and sustainability major will be available at Western Washington University in the fall, combining business courses with environmental interests. The degree can be used in fields such as environmental advising or directing energy services.

The sequence will be 104-106 credits, with only seven credits of electives. The major will require courses from both the College of Business and Economics and Huxley College of the Environment. The major can be declared at either college.

Craig Dunn, associate dean for graduate programs in the College of Business and Economics, has been working with other faculty for four years to create this major to teach students about sustainability.

The new major will teach students about sustainability within environmental studies and business, giving them a more in-depth education, he said.

Three new classes were made specifically for the major and professors have agreed to teach them, Dunn said. 

This joint venture between departments is the first of its kind in the state, said senior and prospective major Joe Gilliland in an email.

“The major is going to give students the tools to apply business problem solving solutions to issues of sustainability, as well as giving them knowledge to bring into the business world of how to create sustainable practices, Gilliland said.

Students will consider environmental and social justice objectives as well as profit, said Wendy Wilhelm, a professor of marketing.

“[We] realized business is really driving the planet to destruction,” Wilhelm said. “Since we cause many of the problems, we had to be part of the solution.”

Some students are already interested in the major, anticipating the class sequence by enrolling in prerequisites for the 300- and 400 -level course load, Dunn said. 

“What has really struck me is how well the collaboration has gone at the faculty level, across the colleges,” Dunn said. 

The collaboration between environmental and business departments is unique for this sort of program, said Michael Medler, chair of the environmental studies department.

“It will take some time to evolve,” Medler said. “We’ll need more faculty with a specific skill set in the long run.”

While creating a joint program had its challenges, it is also important, Dunn said.

“If we’re going to meet the demands in the real world, we have to develop programs that cut across the traditional [department] boundaries,” Dunn said. “Frankly, if we don’t do things differently, we’re doomed.”

Sandra Mottner, chair of the Department of Finance and Marketing, agreed the major will be a good addition to the department.

“Anytime we do things that cross departments and colleges, I think we’re enriching the students and preparing them for the future,” Mottner said.

In order to make effective changes in the world, people have to step outside their own disciplines to effectively collaborate, Dunn said. 

“The entire business world is looking to move to a more sustainable future and is looking for people who are graduating to help them,” Gilliland said.

Since the major is only being added to the course catalogue this fall, not a lot of faculty or students have heard of it, outside of those directly involved in its creation, Gilliland said.

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