Studying Sustainability

Manhattan College offers a vast assortment of courses across all of its disciplines in arts, business, education and health, engineering, and science that pertain to the environment, sustainability, environmental policy and justice. The following is a peek at a few of these courses, majors and minors.

Environmental Studies Minor

All undergraduate students at Manhattan have the opportunity to minor in interdisciplinary environmental studies, as a way to strengthen environmental education for students interested in future careers in the fields of environmental policy or education. In addition, the minor offers science or engineering majors a crucial background for understanding the social context in which their future work will take place.

Environmental Politics

One particular course, Environmental Politics, is a requirement within the environmental studies minor, taught by Pamela Chasek, Ph.D., professor of government and director of the international studies program (see sidebar on page 29 to read more about her participation in Rio+20). The course examines environmental politics at the local, national and international levels to expose students to the role of government and politics in the formulation of these policies. 

An exciting part of the class is the chance for students to work on a group project that will benefit the College’s movement toward sustainability. The fall class worked on a rainwater- harvesting project proposal to submit to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency as part of a national competition, and an examination of the possibilities of using renewable energy on campus. 

Environmental Ethics

Another course in the School of Arts, Environmental Ethics, taught by Eoin O’Connell, Ph.D., assistant professor of philosophy, analyzes the major schools of environmental ethics and also explores the social, political and economic dimensions of environmental problems, such as climate change, sustainable business, energy and food. O’Connell was also instrumental in helping to guide the Sustainability Committee and Green Club on starting a rooftop garden.

Environmental Engineering

In the School of Engineering, any engineering undergraduate can minor in environmental engineering. In addition, the graduate program has both Master of Environmental Engineering and Master of Science in Environmental Engineering degrees, which date back to 1939 and further train engineers seeking careers at environmental consulting firms, in government agencies and in private industry. A few courses include: Advanced Hydraulic Design, Biological Treatment, Environmental Experimental Analysis, Environmental Fate and Effects of Toxic Contaminants, Environmental Sustainability: Water Reuse and Resource Recovery, and Water Treatment. 

Mechanical Engineering

Many also don’t realize that within the Master of Science in Mechanical Engineering, some undergraduate and graduate students are exploring the fundamentals of solar energy. In fact, students and faculty devised a plan for the College to save on heating costs by the installation of a solar water heater on the roof of the Research and Learning Center (RLC) building this fall. In the future, the solar water heater will be used for other mechanical engineering classes to collect data, starting with Solar Energy System Theory and Design in spring 2013. 

“Green engineering is incorporated throughout the mechanical engineering curriculum, and a number of design projects in senior courses are involved in renewable energy projects, including a solar powered cooler, solar chimney and biogas plant,” explains Mohammad Naraghi, Ph.D., professor of mechanical engineering and chair of the department. “As a part of the senior capstone design project (MECH 401), students are redesigning the greenhouse on the top floor of Leo Hall to convert it to a renewable energy laboratory.” 

The Mechanical Engineering department also has a photovoltaic solar panel on the roof of RLC and a portable one in Leo Hall, which are both utilized for different classes. For example, the Introduction to Engineering course, which is required for all freshmen engineering students, has a mechanical engineering module and offers students insight into sustainable energy with experiments on solar panels and fuel cells. 

“Seeing a picture of an actual system or schematic does not usually leave the same impression as seeing the real thing,” adds graduate student Mark Kaszczak ’11 on the benefits the panels brings to current students. “Possibly, the system may cause a spark of creativity, and that student may revolutionize the industry as we know it.” 

During his time as an undergraduate, Kaszczak installed the photovoltaic solar panel on the roof of RLC as an active solar system, and initially used a few computers and lights to test the system. Currently working as a CNC machinist at Stoffel Polygon Systems in Tuckahoe, N.Y., he will complete his master’s in 2013. 

Energy Dynamics of Green Buildings

One course in particular, Energy Dynamics of Green Buildings (formerly called Analysis and Design of HVAC Systems), offered insight for 14 graduate students this fall on how exactly building design affects energy use. In fact, draft chapters from Naraghi’s forthcoming book Energy Dynamics of Green Buildings were utilized as the course textbook. The course taught by Frank Henry, Ph.D., visiting professor of mechanical engineering, discusses technology and methods for maintaining comfortable conditions and ecological balance within buildings, with an emphasis on high performance sustainable design, human comfort, social responsibility, ecology and sustainability. 

Henry points to the recent example of the upgrades made to the Empire State Building last winter, which reduced the building’s energy consumption by nearly 38 percent, as a key reason why the course is important to the master’s program. 

A few other mechanical engineering courses related to sustainable energy are Alternative Energy Systems, Energy Conversion, Energy Dynamics Green Buildings II and Sustainable Materials Selection. 

“A large number of our graduate students conduct master’s theses or research projects related to solar engineering,” Naraghi says. “Their work has resulted in more than 10 publications in prestigious journals and conferences, most notably are two publications in the recent issue of Solar Engineering Journal coauthored by Adrien Harant ’11 and Charline Seytier ’10.” 

Additional Courses

In addition to the courses mentioned, Manhattan College also has offered the following courses: Energy Management, Engineering Economy, Environmental Literature and Ecocriticism, Environmental Quality, Environmental Economics, Environmental Law, Environmental and Safety Issues in Construction for Engineers, General Ecology, Green Engineering Design, Intro to Civil Engineering, Intro to Meteorology, Modern Architecture and the Environment: Ecologically Sustainable and Socially, Principles in Public Health, Pollution Prevention, Project Management and Religion and Environmentalism, and Topics in Applied Conservation.