Auburn’s Board of Trustees has approved a new interdisciplinary undergraduate program, sustainable
Led by the School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences, the new interdisciplinary program was expanded to include the College of Engineering, College of Architecture, College of Agriculture and College of Business.
There are four main components within the program: solid wood products, biochemicals and bioenergy,
All of the points of emphasis are influenced by the desire to have a more sustainable industry. One way they plan on achieving this goal is by building with more wood than the traditional materials of steel and concrete. Administrators in the forestry and wildlife school see wood as more sustainable because it can be regrown, and it does not rely on fossil fuels like its counterparts do.
Building with timber is beneficial to the Alabama economy as the timber industry is one of the top industries in the state. International Beams, the first cross-laminated timber manufacturer in America, is based out of Dothan, Alabama.
A focus on packaging is due to its ever-growing importance in today’s economy.
“I’m sure you may have ordered so many things from Amazon and other places online; everything comes in packaging,” said Janaki Alavalapati, dean of the school of forestry and wildlife sciences.
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Brian Via, Regions professor of forest products in the school of forestry and wildlife sciences, will be a part of the instructors for the courses being taught in the program. Via was in the industry before coming to Auburn over a decade ago and sees the need
“I was, all the time, getting phone calls from students so they could interview for jobs, but, of course, we didn’t have a program,” Via said. “So, the industry has always been highly supportive of an undergraduate program.”
Via, Sole Peresin and all of the faculty that will be a part of the program, worked with the advisory group in order to put together all of the student learning outcomes that the students will need. Then, the faculty had to decide on which classes throughout campus would best fulfill the desired learning outcomes.
“We started to pursue this across campus program because we had limited human resources in terms of our own school, but when we looked across campus, we realized that we had resources that were highly competitive with other universities,” Via said.
“With a lot of support from industry and our stakeholders, they came up with the courses and background that they felt the students would need. Then we literally searched the course catalog to find the courses that would work,” Enebak said.
Most of the courses that will be included in the program were already offered by some colleges at the University. It was just a matter of bringing together the right combination for the desired program. There were, however, eight new sustainable biomaterial courses developed specifically for the new program.
The earliest talks of developing the new program began around March 2016.
“It’s taken well over a year now, to get where we are today,” Enebak said. “One thing I’ve learned is that you can’t be in a hurry.”
After receiving approval from the Board of Trustees, the final step in receiving official adoption is to receive approval from the Alabama Higher Education Commission. The commission meets every six months in Montgomery. The next meeting is in March 2018.
Receiving approval from the commission is seen as procedural by everyone involved with the organizing committee. There is no anticipation of any hiccups with achieving the final step before officially implementing the program.
Students will be able to enroll in classes required for the degree as early as spring semester of 2018.
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