Georgia Tech to launch master’s degree in sustainability this autumn

By David Pendered

The growing demand for leaders in the realm of sustainability is the subject of a new master’s degree program Georgia Tech intends to launch this autumn.

airport, varsity

Sustainability experts will be needed to assist Atlanta’s airport, which consumes nearly half of all energy used by the City of Atlanta and is expected to reduce energy waste and increase the use of renewable energy. Credit: David Pendered

The program intends to provide the technical expertise that industry and government are expected to need to comply with sustainability goals and objectives. Students can attend class online or on campus to fulfill requirements of the degree named, Master of Science in Sustainable Energy and Environmental Management.

The market for services in the sustainability arena is expected to grow by leaps and bounds in cities including Atlanta. Atlanta is one of nearly 100 cities nationwide the Sierra Club reported in October 2018 to be pursuing sustainability programs.

“The world’s energy economy is undergoing transformational change, and as the public and private sectors strengthen their commitment to green practices, the need will increase for well-trained policy experts able to design, implement, and manage responses to sustainability issues,” Marilyn A. Brown, Regents’ professor and Brook Byers Professor of Sustainable Systems in Tech’s School of Public Policy, said in the statement. “This program will provide such leaders.”

Graduates of the 30-credit-hour program are to be able to meet the following criteria, according to Tech’s description of the curriculum:

  • “Assess the context of coupled human and natural systems in energy and environmental problems;
  • “Identify and describe ethical values associated with energy and environmental problems;
  • “Manage and design appropriate responses to energy and environmental sustainability problems;
  • “Apply tools and methods to develop solutions for energy and environmental problems.

There’s no telling the extent to which Atlanta’s sustainability policy, Clean Energy Atlanta, may have influenced Tech’s notions about creating a new master’s degree in sustainability. The Atlanta City Council adopted a version of a sustainability plan in 2017. The council adopted a more aggressive version of the plan this month, following months of discussions with Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms’ administration over specific objectives for reducing and eventually eliminating the reliance on fossil fuel to power buildings.

On Feb. 12, the Board of Regents approved Tech’s proposed curriculum for the degree, according to a statement from Tech. The board oversees the University System of Georgia.

A number of universities already are offering online master’s degrees in sustainability. According to a report by a private firm that offers reviews of various course offerings, collegechoice.net, the list of schools includes University of North Carolina, Penn State University, Virginia Tech, University of Denver and Arizona State University.

Tech’s program is based in the Ivan Allen College of Liberal Arts’ School of Public Policy. According to Tech’s statement, students will:

  • “[S]tudy topics such as sustainable energy and voluntary environmental commitments, cost-benefit analysis, utility regulation and policy, Earth systems, economics of environmental policy, big data and policy analytics, climate policy, and environmental management.
  • “They also will learn analytical techniques used to estimate and evaluate sustainability metrics, be able to expertly assess the context of energy and environmental problems, and understand environmental ethics and its implications for sustainability practice.”

Classes are to be taught by the faculty at the Ivan Allen College, along with faculty in fields that include engineering, business and planning.

“This unique interdisciplinary program takes an innovative and integrative approach to sustainability that epitomizes the commitment of the School of Public Policy to collaborate across disciplines to educate future policy analysts and leaders and turn ideas into solutions to public problems,” Kaye Husbands Fealing, professor and chair of the school, said in a statement.

 

David Pendered, Managing Editor, is an Atlanta journalist with more than 30 years experience reporting on the region’s urban affairs, from Atlanta City Hall to the state Capitol. Since 2008, he has written for print and digital publications, and advised on media and governmental affairs. Previously, he spent more than 26 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and won awards for his coverage of schools and urban development. David graduated from North Carolina State University and was a Western Knight Center Fellow. David was born in Pennsylvania, grew up in North Carolina and is married to a fifth-generation Atlantan.

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