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Central Washington University

Institute for Sustainable Energy, New Degree Program Planned at CWU

As a way to address rapid growth in the sustainable energy industry, a new institute is being developed and degree program initiated at Central Washington University. The Institute for Sustainable Energy Studies (ISES) could be open as early as next year, with CWU geography professor Elvin Delgado serving as its director. Delgado chairs the Energy and Environment Specialty Group (EESG) of the Association of American Geographers (AAG) and was among 28 scholars globally selected to participate in the a conference funded by the National Science Foundation Pan-American Advanced Studies Institutes (NSF-PASI).

The institute would add to CWU’s growing regional and national reputation, and serve as a way to attract new students.

Through ISES, in the Department of Geography, CWU would offer a bachelor of science in sustainable energy studies, to produce graduates that can immediately step into jobs in both the public and private energy sectors.

The realization there was a need for such a degree program came to light when Delgado and Margaret Reich, CWU director of Corporate and Foundation Relations, conducted a survey of numerous companies in Washington and Oregon. Those surveyed, including the Washington State Department of Commerce, Puget Sound Energy, and the Bonneville Power Administration, made it clear that a degree program of this kind is vitally needed.

“Over the next five years, [Puget Sound Energy] is looking at losing 30,000 workers because of retirement,” says Reich. “It’s a perfect time to be embarking on this endeavor.”

Students graduating from the ISES would earn a degree in one of three areas: sustainable energy management, sustainable energy policy, or sustainable power systems.

The CWU program would be the first university in the nation to provide a comprehensive approach to energy issues that is “designed to complement and compare traditional and non-traditional energy resources . . . in the areas of energy management, energy policy and technologies, and energy distribution and consumption,” says Delgado.

Students would take part in interdisciplinary training in solving complex energy issues and have opportunities for apprenticeships, increasing the possibility of having a job immediately upon graduation.

Delgado is working with the departments of geography, business, economics, and Engineering Technologies, Safety, and Construction, as well as physics and math, to develop the degree program’s curriculum. 

The institute will also be involved with research and contracts and international collaboration. The research and contracts component of the institute will focus on providing CWU professors a space to engage in creative and collaborative research, allowing them to write grants to support initiatives.

The international collaboration element will create a connection, specifically to Latin America, designed to provide research, workshops, conferences, and student and faculty exchanges.

“So far, I received verbal commitment for collaboration from Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Mexico and Chile,” says Delgado. “From these countries, Brazil and Chile will send letters of support to [Dean of the College of Sciences] Kirk Johnson by the beginning of August.”    

Researchers participating in the institute will be able to attract funding from organizations, such as the National Science Foundation, US Department of Defense, US Department of State, US Department of Energy, and Bonneville Power Administration. 

Delgado is now finalizing the institute and degree-program proposals, which will be submitted to the CWU President’s Cabinet this fall for review.

“Different companies and institutions in both private and public sectors have agreed to send letters of support for the Institute by the end of this month,” says Delgado, adding, 

“[College of the Sciences] Dean [Kirk] Johnson’s involvement has been crucial for the development of the institute. This would not have been possible without his support.”

Media contact: Robert Lowery, CWU Public Affairs, 509-963-1487, loweryr@cwu.edu

July 26, 2013

Release prepared by Kyra Jo Garnich