EMERGE Program shows Seminole State's growing commitment to sustainability

Friday, November 11, 2016
Written by: Kimberly Allen

The EMERGE Program for Sustainability and Renewable Energy will bring experts in the field to Seminole State College of Florida for a lecture and panel discussion on Tuesday, Nov. 15, at the College’s Sanford/Lake Mary Campus.

Dr. Robert Franco, anthropologist and Director for Institutional Effectiveness at Kapi’olani Community College in Honolulu, Hawaii, will present a lecture titled “Sustainability in the Pacific.” The session will focus on current challenges and opportunities facing sustainable development in the Hawaiian Islands.

Franco will then take part in a panel discussion on “The Role of State Colleges in Sustainability Education.” The discussion will focus on how community and state colleges can serve as an engine for social change and environmental action at the local level. Franco will be joined by fellow Community College Alliance for Sustainability in Education (CCASE) Board members Dr. Stephen Summers, associate vice president of the School of Arts and Sciences at Seminole State; Yara Watson, coordinator of sustainability and outreach for the Sustainability Advisory Committee at the University of Central Florida; and Kelly Brock, assistant public works director and city engineer for the City of Casselberry.

The lecture by Franco will begin at 10 a.m. in the Automotive Showroom (building AT). The panel discussion will follow at 11 a.m.

“Community and state colleges provide a unique service in terms sustainability initiatives and renewable energy,” says James Miller, coordinator of the EMERGE Program. “Universities tend to focus on implementation and research as it relates to sustainability, but state colleges are more community focused, working to create more consciousness about sustainable practices and meeting the workforce need for technicians who are trained in those practices.”

Seminole State offers a number of programs and courses that emphasize sustainability. The College’s Bachelor of Science degrees in Engineering Technology and Interior Design offer a specialization in Sustainable Engineering, with courses focused on alternative energy policy and sources and sustainability in the built environment.

The subject of sustainability isn’t just reserved for programs in engineering and interior design. Miller says, it’s interdisciplinary, and Seminole State’s Sustainability Certificate is evidence of that. The technical certificate program incorporates courses in physics, public policy, engineering and business.

 “Many faculty members are interested in incorporating more concepts related to sustainability into their curriculum,” says Summers, CCASE Board member. “The College has the EMERGE Program and is involved in CCASE, but we’re looking for more opportunities to be eco-friendly and consider the environment. We need to be a model in the community and in instructing and educating our students in sustainable practices.”

Sustainability isn’t just for the classroom. Seminole State puts it into practice on campus. In 2012, the renovated third floor of building L on the College’s Sanford/Lake Mary Campus earned a gold Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification from the U.S. Green Building Council for promoting energy-saving green technology. The College’s latest construction project at the campus, a 77,000-square-foot Student Services Center, will be equipped with eco-friendly features from the mechanical systems to the plumbing and electricity. The Center, which is slated to open in January 2018, will incorporate low-flow plumbing fixtures, high efficiency water heaters, LED lighting and more.

“When modeled using ASHRAE 90.1 Energy Cost Budget Method, the building as a whole was approximately 40 percent more energy efficient,” says Scott Neuner, project manager and mechanical engineer at Matern, the mechanical, electrical and plumbing engineer for the project. “The LED lighting utilized was huge for energy savings, and accounted for approximately 35 percent less consumption than standard-performing lights.”

Students are also keen on going green. “There’s a lot of interest among students to start eco-friendly projects,” says Miller. “We have an Environmental Initiative club, the IDEAS club, and the Wildlife Conservation & Education Club was just created.”

Generating student interest in and awareness of sustainability is part of the EMERGE program’s purpose. “We want to increase students’ knowledge of sustainable practices and concepts and encourage non-science majors to enter the program,” Miller says.

About the EMERGE Program

The EMERGE Program for Sustainability and Renewable Energy is a three-year, $900,000 grant program funded by the National Science Foundation. The program, which began in 2015, aims to strengthen employability for graduates, add courses and provide certifications in STEM areas, offer a program for dual-enrolled students and increase interest in sustainability and STEM programs among non-science majors.