In a world of infinite possibilities, one thing becomes increasingly clear: the resources of our world are very much finite. In the context of ever rising global temperatures and the destruction of natural habitats, it’s more obvious than ever that serious work must be done to halt and reverse mankind’s destructive influence on the planet. Few institutions play a more important role in this mission than universities. Giving young scholars and scientists the education and know-how needed to protect the environment is paramount to achieving a sustainable future.
The United Nations forecasts that there will be at least 9.8 billion humans on earth by 2050, a number that could rise to 11 billion by 2100. This burgeoning population will need food, water, energy, good jobs, and a viable future. At the same time, climate change and land degradation is making those necessities increasingly harder to provide.
This is why the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals are so important to the future of humanity. This set of 17 goals are a universal call to action to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure that all people can live in peace and prosperity. They address a wide range of issues, from protection of marine life; to reducing inequality; to ending world hunger, poverty, and more. In the words of the former UN Secretary General Ban-Ki Moon, “we don’t have plan B because there is no planet B”.
By producing highly-skilled environmental scholars and scientists in areas as like climate, energy and food security, universities and students play a vitally important role.
Choosing this path is a smart move for students seeking good employment opportunities. Demand is growing for Sustainability Consultants, Environmental Scientists & Engineers, Agriculture and Food Scientists, just to name a few. As sustainability becomes a more prescient issue, some have predicted that it won’t be long before sustainability becomes part of every job description. Already, candidates in sustainability have witnessed a sea change in their prospects as they have become inundated with offers from companies seeking their talents.
For many, a fulfilling career has a lot to do with the feeling that your work is meaningful. Students who enter the field of Food, Agriculture, Renewable Natural Resources and the Environment go on to do work that’s about as meaningful as it gets. Graduates prospects are broad, varied and exciting.
The Great Green Wall is just one of the many incredible projects graduates can pursue. This vast belt of vegetation stretches across the edge of the Sahara, helping to slow the advancing desertification of the Sahara and improve the lives of those who live around it. It’s about providing food, jobs and a future for the millions of people who live in a region that’s on the frontline of climate change. Projects like these simply aren’t possible without highly talented environmental advocates to design, maintain and implement them.
With such a new and exciting field, it’s not always easy to deduce which institution offers the best experience for those wishing to become environmental advocates. To help you, we’ve compiled a list of three great choices for those wishing to join this young and vibrant field.
The University of Michigan’s School for Environment and Sustainability (SEAS), founded in 1903, is a long-time leader in the field of environmental education. Maybe it has something to do with its location: Ann Arbor, Michigan, a vibrant college town with 147 parks situated in the heart of the Great Lakes. The natural wonder of the great outdoors is visible at every turn.
Courses at the school provide interdisciplinary training to “help protect the Earth’s resources and work toward a just and sustainability society.” SEAS is a cross-campus program, so students are able to complement their coursework with electives in any of the University of Michigan’s 18 other schools and colleges.
SEAS has the largest alumni network of any environmental graduate program, with more than 8,000 living graduates worldwide. Their most popular program is the Master of Science degree. Their joint degree with the U-M Ross School of Business through the Erb Institute was the first program of its kind. The Master of Landscape Architecture Degree is one of the only programs globally that employs ecological principles in environmentally-responsible design.
According to Andrew Sell, who studied landscape architecture, “You’ll be blown away by the conversations that you have, the people that you meet, the faculty that are interested in getting to know you and also helping to achieve your dreams and your goals.”
Outside of the classroom, students at SEAS can immerse themselves field settings ranging from urban gardens to remote forests, along with university nature areas totalling 1761 acres, 854 acre botanical gardens and a 500 acre arboretum. Combine that with a world-class faculty and faculty-student ratio of 1:7, and you can see why SEAS is a leader in the education of environmental scholars and scientists.
The University of Waterloo’s Faculty of Environment is the largest in Canada, ranked by Macleans as the third-best for Environmental Science in 2017. Located in Ontario and not far from several Great Lakes and the US border, the school’s size is matched by the talent of its professors. The faculty boasts several internationally-renowned members, including five Canada Research Chairs, two University Research Chairs and one Distinguished Professor.
The school’s 2,334 undergraduates are offered a choice of eight world-class – including Geography and Environmental Management, Knowledge Integration, Geomatics, International Development, Planning, Environment, Resources and Sustainability. These are delivered in a decidedly hands-on way, with normal classes supported by numerous field courses and access to a world-class ecology lab, a fully-outfitted workshop, multiple computer labs and multi-media resources.
For graduates here, prospects look good. Many choose to undertake the hugely successful co-op program that boasts a placement rate above 90 percent. Those who decide to take graduate programs may be eligible for some of the fully-funded PhDs offered through the Dean’s Doctoral Initiative.
Nestled in Fort Collins, just north of Denver, lies Colorado State University’s School of Global Environmental Sustainability – a school that has gained national and international renown for its integrated approach to the teaching of environmental issues.
Sustainable development is an all-encompassing goal that concerns every area of life, and in response to this the school was created in 2008 as an “umbrella” organisation including eight colleges from the College of Natural Resources to the College of Business. Teaching here is approached from an interdisciplinary perspective, bolstered by a broad base of different viewpoints and skillsets.
This year, the Centre for World University Rankings placed Colorado State University in the top ten in the “biodiversity conservation” programme rankings, and the university itself at number 282 worldwide. Speaking about the biodiversity ranking, Chris Funk, director of CSU’s Global Biodiversity Centre, said that no single college or department at CSU is responsible for the high marks. “Rather, this is due to the fact we have an incredible strength in biodiversity conservation-related research in pretty much all the colleges on campus.”
*Some of the institutions featured in this article are commercial partners of Study International