Intern Picks: Sustainability-Focused Courses

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In honor of spring course registration, our sustainability interns have each recommended an environmentally-themed course they have taken at Rice. These course recommendations reflect the diversity and multidisciplinary character of environmental education. Check out “What We’ve Learned” in this edition of “From the Sustainability Office.”

ARCH 313 - Case Studies in Sustainable Design
“ARCH 313 provides an overview of sustainable design from a professor in the practice, Rives Taylor, who works for the world-renowned green architecture firm Gensler. I took this course in Fall 2015, but Professor Taylor has taught the class for years and will continue to do so. I really enjoyed learning from an experienced architect and having opportunities to visit green buildings both on and off campus. This class stimulated creativity because we were allowed to do case studies on basically anything under the sustainable design umbrella. The timeline for turning in projects was flexible, as Professor Taylor was very understanding of the demanding lives of Rice students as he once was one of us. Additionally, he had an interesting grading policy which enabled students to incorporate his feedback after receiving an initial grade, and the revisions could be turned in at any time in the semester in order to pursue a higher grade. Professor Taylor shared his passion for sustainability in an engaging manner, which heightened my fascination of the subject.” - Ansley Jones (‘16), former Sustainability Intern.

CEVE 314 - Sustainable Water Purification for Developing Regions
“This course, taught by Dr. Jorge Loyo, is an overview of sustainable strategies for safe water supply in low-income and developing regions of the world. The entire course was centered around designing a water purification system for a rural community in Mexico, which get its untreated drinking water from an uncovered cistern. We were given a fixed budget and used what we learned in class to physically build a system that met the community’s needs. My project group built a bio sand filtration system — which after a couple alterations was very successful at purifying bayou water! It was so cool to get hands-on experience working to improve water quality in a real-world scenario.” - Veronica Johnson, Sustainability Intern.

CEVE 323 - Advanced Sustainable Design
“Professor Jim Blackburn is a legend and inspiration in all things related to the environment and sustainability, and if you are interested in sustainability, you should not leave Rice without taking one of his courses. What I found to be especially compelling about this course is the way in which he brings a wide variety of voices into the conversation on sustainability, from engineers to university officials, from environmental justice advocates to those who defend oil companies from environmental litigation. It is a masterclass, not only in a holistic understanding of contemporary issues in sustainability but also in Blackburn’s unique art of establishing and maintaining friendships, even with those with whom he disagrees. This course provided me with a clarity in terms of my desired career goals and values with which few other courses at Rice can compare.” - Ethan Hasiuk, Sustainability Intern.

EBIO/ENST 204 - Community Garden
“In this course, the outdoors became our setting as we worked in and learned from the gardens around campus. In addition to Dr. Joe Novak’s weekly hour-long lecture inside of a normal classroom, students are tasked with spending workdays in the Rice gardens, and, occasionally, gardens in the Houston area. You will learn about composting, irrigation, insects, landscaping, and, of course, how to plant and harvest produce. The wealth of knowledge I have gained about gardening is a product of Dr. Novak’s extensive background on and passion for gardening — he expresses its worth for communities, students, and the human body and spirit. As another bonus, you can continue pursuing an interest in gardening through Rice Urban Agriculture meetings and events or by stopping to work with the semester’s Community Garden class.” - Sophia Erhard, Sustainability Intern.

EBIO 323 - Conservation Biology
“This has easily been my favorite course I’ve taken at Rice thus far. Conservation had long been my biggest personal passion and academic interest, so I had high hopes for this course when I took it in the fall of 2015. Dr. Amy Dunham structured the class so that lectures, literature readings, and class discussions were all vital components of learning. Each served to help us look at topics from various perspectives. Dr. Dunham reminded me of many basic concepts, taught me countless new things, and presented us with many fascinating case studies. This class further solidified that I want to pursue conservation as a career. This course is a great overview of how conservation works both in theory and in the field.” - Ben Johnson, Sustainability Intern.

SOCI 368 - Sociology of Disaster
“I’m currently taking Sociology of Disaster with Dr. Jim Elliott and, as you can imagine, there’s some pretty heavy stuff. We study various natural disasters from the past half-century but, unlike your favorite disaster movie, the class approaches these events as social constructs — that is, as systems primed by technology and social stratification that impact people in different ways. For example, can we really call Hurricane Katrina a ‘natural’ disaster if it was the levees that broke and flooded New Orleans, a city built below sea-level as it is? I like this class because it has turned this seemingly natural, even God-forsaken catastrophe into something humans have control over, to put a lighter spin on it. This is especially important to understand in Houston, where our ship channel makes us one of the most vulnerable regions in the country. In fact, this second half of the course is a research project on the Houston Ship Channel and what might happen to America’s fourth largest city if a hurricane hits its second largest port — and let me tell you, it’s not good.” - Geneva Vest, Sustainability Intern.