Tamar Ashdot-Bari/Pipe Dream Photographer

Binghamton University announced a new sustainable communities graduate program to begin next fall, making the University one of the first in the country to offer a master’s degree in the subject.

The sustainable communities master’s program will also be the first of its kind within the State University of New York (SUNY) school system and will focus on giving students the practical skills and knowledge needed to organize, strategize and direct communities toward sustainable practices. Sustainable practices seek to find an environmentally friendly solution to communities’ over-usage of resources and include utilizing solar and wind power, recycling old materials and instituting the use of electric cars.

The program will be interdepartmental, stretching across both Harpur College and the College of Community and Public Affairs. It will be two years in length and students will be able to pursue it either as a Master of Arts (MA) or a Master of Science (MS). The degree requires a minimum completion of 38 credits, which includes classes in geography, anthropology, biology and environmental studies, and culminates with either a final thesis for MS students or a capstone project for MA students.

According to George Homsy, a graduate director for the program and an assistant professor of public administration, this combination of geography, environmental studies and public administration is unique to BU’s program and makes the program well-rounded.

“Those are the three areas that are really important to sustainability,” Homsy said. “People will see the combination of the three departments and realize they can really benefit from the strength of each of those departments.”

Homsy said a degree in this field opens up an increasing number of job opportunities for students, including positions as sustainability directors and city planners.

“These are issues that students are really interested in and ideas that are really important to the world right now,” Homsy said. “The new program is designed to send professionals out into the world to think sustainably about issues of governance, issues of local, state and federal government and even issues of some companies. They have to think more broadly than a lot of professional master’s programs do.”

This program will not only provide research benefits for the University, but will also enhance BU’s graduate program reputation, according to Tim Frazier, an associate professor of geography and one of the nine faculty members affiliated with the program.

“It’s an amazing opportunity to enhance the academic reputation of the University and position us to be leaders in the world of sustainability science and sustainability programs,” Frazier said. “It’s a wonderful opportunity for existing students and also provides a platform and an opportunity for students around the state and around the region.”

According to Carl Lipo, one of the graduate directors and a professor of anthropology, the number of students that will be in enrolled in the program for this upcoming semester is still up in the air, as the application phase is ongoing. This year’s class will be a smaller number of students, but he said he believes the program will eventually grow to have classes of 30 to 50 students.

“There’s been a lot of interest from students on sustainability,” Lipo said. “It’s an issue on everyone’s mind. It’s taking a step forward and leading what’s really happening out in the market place and building an education that’s leading students to be some of the first students that are doing that on this issue.”