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Kate Maiolatesi: Proud of HCC’s program on sustainability

To the editor:

As a long-time proponent of environmental sustainability, it was nice to see the June 5 article in the Gazette about the growth of sustainability programs at local colleges (“Sustainability grows as higher-ed pursuit in Valley”) by Madeleine List.

Greenfield Community College and the University of Massachusetts should be commended for providing students with pathways to increase their understanding of issues that contribute to environmental degradation and outlets to put this knowledge to work improving how humans interact with the earth.

It is worth noting that Holyoke Community College, where I teach, also has a robust and growing sustainability studies program.

HCC introduced its first sustainability classes in 1999, and several years later created a sustainability studies department. In 2011, HCC added sustainable agriculture as a degree option and last year saw graduates earning its first degrees in sustainability studies. HCC students can now also earn degrees in clean energy as well as certificates in clean energy, solar energy, wind energy and geothermal energy.

In addition to survey classes, such as Introduction to Sustainability Studies and Introduction to Sustainable Energy Resources, HCC offers courses such as Sustainability in the 21st Century, Energy Efficiency and Conservation Methods, Renewable Energy Technology, Green Careers Exploration, Solar Thermal Energy, Solar Photovoltaics, and one of our most popular classes, The Politics of Food, an honors course that combines sustainable agriculture and philosophy.

A few years ago, students at HCC formed a Sustainability Club. Club members, along with students taking sustainability classes, maintain the organic and permaculture gardens on campus, and have been working with the college dining service and culinary arts department to improve campus composting and recycling.

HCC students have developed projects that explore vermiculture (composting with worms) and regularly collaborate with community groups, such as Holyoke Pediatric Associates and the West Springfield and Holyoke boys and girls clubs, to build gardens and create sustainability education programs for their children.

Of course, after earning their associate degrees at HCC, many of our students continue their studies in sustainability at four-years schools, including UMass.

Kate Maiolatesi

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