NCSE Panel on “Building Undergraduate and Graduate Programs in Ecological Economics”

The January 20-22, 2010 annual meeting of the National Council for Science and the Environment hosted a panel discussion on “Building Undergraduate and Graduate Programs in Ecological Economics”.  The panel was organized by Rob Dietz, Executive Director of the Center for the Advancement of a Steady State Economy, and included the following discussants:

  • Brian Czech, Visiting Professor of Ecological Economics, Virginia Tech University
  • Jon Erickson, Professor and Managing Director, Gund Institute of Ecological Economics, University of Vermont
  • Chris Stratton, Course Developer and Instructor of Ecological Economics, University of Oregon
  • Kevin Horan, Course Developer and Instructor of Ecological Economics, University of Oregon

The field of ecological economics provides the foundational model for the transition to a new green economy – an economy characterized by sustainable scale, fair distribution of wealth, and efficient allocation of resources.  The International Society for Ecological Economics and its regional offshoots provide an academic hub for ecological economists who have been building the case for a transition to a different sort of economy for several decades.  Even with such a solid foundation, very few university programs are providing a curriculum in ecological economics (notable exceptions in the U.S. include the University of Vermont, University of Maryland, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, and California State University at Stanislaus).  Training a new generation of students in ecological economics is a necessary component of the transition to a green economy, and universities can benefit from the experiences of programs that have already been developed.

The purpose of the workshop was to explain how to build undergraduate and graduate programs in ecological economics.  Workshop participants explored two basic models for building such programs:  (1) constructing a full-scale ecological economics program with several degree options, and (2) developing a collaborative program within a department of natural or social science.  Discussants and participants addressed program elements, course content, successes in program development, and pitfalls to avoid.