Dalton State Adds Sustainability Degree


Ryan Langham is intrigued by learning more about the interaction between science, the environment, and humans.

“Our species is affecting everything,” said the Dalton State student. “I want to learn more about how we’re affecting the planet and local environments and what we can do to stop or minimize negative impacts.”

Currently Langham is a biology major, but when the new bachelor’s degree in environmental and sustainability studies is available spring semester, he will strongly consider changing his major.

The bachelor’s degree in environmental and sustainability studies was approved Tuesday by the Board of Regents. It is Dalton State’s 25th four-year degree.

“I’m excited about this degree,” Langham said. “It will give students a chance to learn more about the broader picture of the science world and our species and how it’s all interconnected. That’s what’s so interesting to me.”

The degree was developed at the request of members of the Alliance for Innovation and Sustainability. AIS is a group that works together with businesses, schools, and community leaders to promote innovation and sustainability practices that encompass the environment, economy, and social responsibility, said Dr. Randall Griffus, dean of the School of Science, Technology, and Mathematics who is a member of AIS.

“Sustainability is an exciting new career field that supports the need of our region,” said Dr. Margaret Venable, president of Dalton State. “Dalton State’s newest degree will prepare students for jobs in local manufacturing and related industry jobs, as well as a variety of other potential careers. I’m excited to add this interdisciplinary program to our options for students because it demonstrates, once again, we listen to our local employers and are responding to their needs and ensuring our students are able to find employment in this community after graduation.”

Sustainability is a broad field that requires students to have knowledge in a variety of areas, including biology, chemistry, and business. The interdisciplinary aspect of the degree is what separates this program from other environmental studies programs, Griffus said.

“We developed this program with input from our local industry,” he said. “Almost every Fortune 500 company has some type of sustainability program. Even smaller companies have environmental health and safety programs. Students who graduate from this program will be a good fit for that.”  

Dr. Doyle Loughren, an associate professor of geography who has a doctorate in human-environment geography, helped develop the program at Dalton State.

“As the global population rises, people are transforming more of the earth’s surface,” he said. “This is causing a host of problems such as pollution, land degradation, resource depletion, environmental conflict, and an increase in natural and human-induced hazards. There is a need for individuals, households, communities, and nations to understand how to make good environmental decisions that foster resiliency. In response to this, both businesses and governmental agencies have started to hire sustainability professionals who have the skills to solve real-world problems and the knowledge of environmental regulations and security.”

Students who graduate with this degree should be qualified for jobs in many aspects of sustainability including energy, transportation or recycling, or in areas dealing with agriculture, environmental conservation, tourism, or disasters, Loughren said.

“The new environmental sustainability degree will allow our students to be at the forefront of environmental issues and interactions that affect each of us locally, nationally, and globally,” said Dr. Pat Chute, provost and vice president for Academic Affairs. “This is another degree that Dalton State has developed in response to industry standards and need and positions our students to be sought out after they graduate.”

Langham likes that this field would give him several options.

“Ultimately the reason I’m in school is to start a career where I’m satisfied financially and not stuck in an office all day,” he said. “And I think this degree will give me that opportunity.”