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Saturday, October 16, 2021

New masters program to highlight sustainable development

Members from UC Davis Extension, in collaboration with graduate groups, are working on developing a new masters program in sustainable community development.

This new program, which builds on the existing Masters of Science degree in community development, will place a hands-on emphasis on connection and integration of the “3 E’s” of sustainability: economy, equity and environment.

Though not yet official, university officials are currently writing a proposal for the new degree with the hopes of submitting it by September 2010.

Jeff Loux, director of the land use and natural resources program, warned that there was still a long way to go before the program could actually be implemented.

“[It’s] just a set of ideas that haven’t been fully worked out yet,” he said. “It hasn’t gone through any of the formal committees.”

However, Chris Benner, an associate professor in the department of human and community development, remained optimistic.

“We hope that it [will] be approved in enough time to begin accepting students in fall 2011,” he said.

Benner, the co-chair of the committee developing the new program, explained that this degree is targeted not only at fulltime students but working professionals in the central California valley. Many of the courses will be offered in the evenings or weekends and in settings other than the traditional classroom, including web-based projects and applied research work with communities.

Loux, who currently teaches courses in Green Building and Sustainable Design at UC Davis Extension, said that he would likely be teaching some of the courses with the masters program.

“I’m involved as a faculty member [on the] committee trying to figure out what the program looks at,” he said. “I’m willing and able to teach courses [since] the extension program is likely to become a part of the program.”

Jonathan London, the director of the Center for Regional Change, a research center that seeks to understand connections between a variety of different things including land use, economic development and transportation, is also involved in the planning of this degree.

“It’s an exciting opportunity to provide practical, skill-based graduate level training, both for our fulltime master students as well as professional communities in the region,” London said.

London added that advantages of the new program include having professionals interact with students, which he hopes will foster a mutual learning environment and increase campus understanding of the professional careers available in the central valley region.

Both Benner and London were very interested in discussing the future of the program and how it would impact UC Davis.

“It would mean that we would be able to attract a broader range of students and be able to serve a broader segment of the population than those able to enroll in a fulltime graduate program,” London said.

Both of them expressed hope that it will one day serve as a resource for professionals and attract not only those in nearby communities, but on a national or even global scale.

“I think it will really help strengthen and solidify UC Davis’s role in the whole central valley area of California in promoting more sustainable community development,” Benner said. “[It will] really open up a network to a whole new constituency of people.”

AKSHAYA RAMANUJAM can be reached at campus@theaggie.org.

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