By Jacqueline Calla, Amherst College class of 2017
Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines the term “sustainability” as “a method of harvesting or using a resource so that the resource is not depleted or permanently damaged.” Why is sustainability important? Because the actions we take today have an effect on the future. We must take care of what we have now in order for future generations to have choices and for our planet Earth to function at equilibrium.
There are a surprising number of excellent sustainability education programs provided by Tampa Bay universities, of which few people are aware. These programs not only focus on sustainability locally, but also worldwide. One of the most influential sustainability programs in Tampa is the Patel School of Global Sustainability. Established in 2010, the new college is a graduate level program of the University of South Florida and is targeted to entrepreneurs, engineers, and environmental managers looking not only to continue their education but to also advance sustainability projects all over the world. Some of the projects include focusing on improving water resources, urban systems, and transportation. The World Bank has awarded funds to the new college to conduct an extensive water management project in Africa. The Patel School of Global Sustainability will help create significant changes to improve global communities for current and future generations.
A common way to learn about sustainability is to get a bachelor’s degree in a related field, such as Environmental Studies. Eckerd College in St. Petersburg, Florida provides a great Environmental Studies program which analyzes the ways in which humans interact with the natural world. The program covers essential topics such as politics, the sciences, history, sociology, philosophy, and more. Having an educational background in an environmental field opens up many opportunities in the job market and continuing education.
The University of Tampa also has an influential Environmental Science program, where courses like Environmental Economics, Government and World Affairs, and Sustainability in Cities comprise a highly flexible degree program. There are several faculty from the Biology and Chemistry departments currently conducting research within the degree program, so there are plenty of research and work opportunities for students year round. The degree program at UT is associated with a new student group, the UT Tampa Bay Association for Environmental Professionals, which assists Environmental Science majors in gaining hands-on internships and permanent employment.
Without a doubt, sustainability is a growing field with a wide array of job opportunities in the humanities, sciences, and social sciences. Getting a degree in sustainability or in a related field can connect interested individuals with professional careers. Graduates from Tampa Bay universities have gone on to become environmental engineers, health and safety inspectors, natural sciences managers, scientists, sustainability coordinators, environmental coordinators, environmental technicians, and health and safety specialists.
Sustainability careers can follow many paths. Work will often focus on bridging the gaps between the environment, social issues, and economics. Most importantly, if you develop a career in the sustainability field you will not only have satisfying work in your own life, but also a positive impact on the lives of others around you. And it can all start with a degree in sustainability from a university right here in Tampa Bay!
Editor's note: This is a guest post from Amherst student Jackie Calla, who spent time this summer investigating sustainability education programs in the Tampa Bay area. The Sustany Foundation very much appreciates her efforts!