By Dr. Jonathan Richard Walz
Chair, SIT MA in Climate Change and Global Sustainability
Across The Experiment, World Learning, and SIT, we recognize the urgency of climate change as it relates not only to the environment but also to social justice writ large. Under that guiding principle, we design our programs as critical incubators of knowledge and skills for future leaders who seek to create a more sustainable future.
At SIT, many of our undergraduate and graduate programs focus on the human-environment interface, often through the lens of communities' diverse approaches and needs. As students live and study alongside communities in which sustainability measures are most impactful, they become better able to consider, contrast, and apply concepts of social and environmental justice. As a result, each year SIT students produce meaningful master’s degree capstone projects and undergraduate Independent Study Projects that address sustainability in settings throughout the world. Recent research has examined food security in Guatemala; health and well-being in Alaska; forest usage in Liberia; and hydroponic farming in Jordan.
These experiences often influence our students’ academic and professional paths. Graduates of our MA in Climate Change and Global Sustainability have gone on to promote green energy approaches at the Union of Concerned Scientists and to work in sustainable agriculture with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, in sustainable forestry in Montreal, as a researcher at the International Network of Mountain Indigenous Peoples in Peru, and as a climate policy consultant for the World Bank, to name just a few examples.
But this purpose-driven exploration can start at an even younger age. On The Experiment, high school students can engage with and study climate change in Portugal or sustainability in the Galápagos and the Andes.
At our campus in Vermont—traditionally the training site for The Experiment group leaders and SIT faculty, and home to SIT Graduate Institute programs like the CONTACT summer peacebuilding program—we demonstrate our commitment to sustainability with green energy projects like state-of-the-art heating and cooling systems and a large solar array that helps to meet the energy needs of the campus and the Brattleboro community.
As students live and study alongside communities in which sustainability measures are most impactful, they become better able to consider, contrast, and apply concepts of social and environmental justice.
At the same time, World Learning programs and projects worldwide have taken a deeper, critical look at sustainability while enabling emerging leaders to enhance their knowledge and skills. Over the past year, we have addressed water scarcity, waste reduction, and recycling and repurposing in Mexico through Jóvenes en Acción (Youth in Action) and environmental safeguards in Peru through the Youth Ambassadors program. We have pursued renewable energy at a child welfare center in a ger district of Mongolia and addressed urban emissions and pollution across the Indo-Pacific region, among other programming.
Whether it is the first step or a series of on-the-ground and lifelong learning efforts, at World Learning and SIT, our focus is firmly on how to build and support a more sustainable future for all.