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Westphal Launches New Minor in Sustainability

January 23, 2013

Sustainability in the Built environment minor

From creating new kinds of food packaging made of recyclable materials to finding ways to leverage design to reduce fossil fuel consumption, the need for sustainable design is surfacing in the mainstream. Drexel recently introduced a new minor, Sustainability in the Built Environment, to meet that growing need. The decision is part of a University-wide trend to provide students with the tools needed to analyze future projects from a sustainable perspective.

Debrah Ruben and Nicole Koltick, assistant professors in the Department of Architecture and Interiors, are the creators of the new minor. Ruben has run several courses in social sustainability and community design and was a driving force in obtaining several grants for community-based projects.  Koltick, for her part, has a diverse background in technology coursework and digital initiatives and was awarded a Community Research Grant for her Mantua Community Design Build course. Naturally, the two were the perfect team to create such a uniquely designed minor.

“While sustainable design principles have become a thread throughout our curriculum, architecture and interiors students were expressing an interest in more in-depth knowledge and content related to sustainable design,” Ruben said. “That was what initially prompted the idea for the creation of the minor. At the same time, it was the perfect opportunity to expand the dialogue among students and disciplines—we wanted to encourage these connections.”

The minor is comprised of 15 required credits and nine free elective credits pertaining to sustainability. The courses integrate collaboration and interdisciplinary teamwork to help students understand how to incorporate sustainability principles into their future careers.

“Creating an interdisciplinary curriculum was the goal of this minor, as well as giving students resources and insight into the topic of sustainability to be integrated into their existing disciplines,” said Diana Nicholas, a professor in the Architecture & Interiors program and coordinator of the new minor. “It’s becoming more and more necessary for students to have experience in the understanding of this topic.”

Although some of the courses in this minor were previously offered, this is the first year a minor in sustainability is available. With the new minor come several new courses, such Sustainable Design: History and Theory and Collaborative Research in Sustainability.

The curriculum goes beyond the stereotypical design courses, working in interdisciplinary collaborations with Drexel Smart House and community engagement design electives, such as the Mantua Community Design Build. The minor is meant to be flexible so it can easily fit into a student’s schedule.

“Whether students are pursuing degrees in science, business, humanities, design or engineering, the word ‘sustainability’ is in everyone’s vocabulary these days," Ruben said. "We hope the minor will allow both design and non-design students working together to inform each other, and provide them with a versatile and transferable set of knowledge and skills that they can apply to their future professions.”

For more information on the minor, email Diana Nicholas at dsn35@drexel.edu or visit the website here.