New SPEA sustainability program channels student's passion about environment, policy
Nekoma Burcham View print-quality image
August 14, 2012
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For Nekoma Burcham, discovering a new sustainability program at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis was like finding the final piece of a puzzle. Burcham immediately knew she had a clear and concise degree plan for channeling her passions about the environment and her interest in policy-making.
Burcham, a junior, rushed to an academic advisor in the IU School of Public and Environmental Affairs at IUPUI, becoming the first student to sign up for the school’s new sustainable management and policy major, which will be offered this fall.
SPEA created the new undergraduate major because more and more government, private and nonprofit organizations are focusing on environmental conservation and economic and social responsibility. These organizations need graduates who have the tools and knowledge to address sustainability issues in ways that bring change to communities and companies.
Different from programs that focus on the science of sustainability, the sustainable management and policy major will give students a solid grounding in public affairs, finance, policy-making and civic engagement, combined with specialized classes in the principles of sustainability, environmental justice and green technologies.
Burcham, a part-time student, was drawn to the world of policy through her full-time job at the Office for Veterans and Military Personnel at IUPUI.
“I’ve always enjoyed politics, but I found it really interesting being directly involved with the GI Bill, watching new legislation come forward, seeing it in discussion phases, watching it roll out and then having to implement it myself,” she said.
Given her interests, Burcham was already enrolled in SPEA’s policy studies program.
She was excited by the possibility of connecting her interest in policy with a passion for protecting the environment.
“Throughout my life I’ve been very passionate about even the basics of sustainability.
Recycling, turning off the lights, using less, wasting less has always mattered to me.”
Burcham recalls how her great-grandmother spent summers with her family when she was growing up. Having lived through the Great Depression, her great-grandmother was not one to waste anything.
“It was always amazing to watch,” Burcham said. “She would save small pieces of tin foil to reuse.”
Looking forward, Burcham believes developing policies to advance sustainable practices will be important if sustainability is to make the kinds of advances she and others would like to see happen.
“Unfortunately, I don’t think people will of their own volition come around to sustainable ways of doing things,” Burcham said. “I would like to be there to help mold policy and make that happen.”
Graduates of the sustainable management and policy program can expect to be prepared for jobs as city or corporate sustainability coordinators, managers of environmental nonprofits, owners of green businesses, research analysts, compliance officers, salespeople and marketing managers, and legislative analysts.
This focus is in line with SPEA’s other majors: civic leadership, management, policy studies, media and public affairs, criminal justice and public safety. SPEA students learn how to work in government, nonprofit and business roles to make positive changes in their communities, their states, their countries and the world.