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Students Urge Washington Decision Makers to Support New Energy Literacy Curriculum

Hands-On Learning

Students Urge Washington Decision Makers to Support New Energy Literacy Curriculum

A team of Bentley undergraduate students headed to Captiol Hill to canvas congressional leaders about implementing a new “Energy 101” curriculum aimed at teaching basic energy principles at U.S. colleges and universities. Students met with key decision makers and groups including staffers from the offices of Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, and Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse; the future administrator of the EPA, Gina McCarthy; and Sen. Jon Tester. The initiative builds on a three-year collaboration between Bentley students and Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit Environmental and Energy Study Institute, under the direction of Bentley professor, David Szymanski, a former congressional fellow and science policy advisor to US Senator Jon Tester.

The Bentley team included (as pictured from left to right) Dan Westervelt (sophomore), Monica Tshanakas (senior), Aaron Pinet (junior, laying down), Laura Yates (senior), Kaila Reed (junior, seated), Alyson Bisceglia (senior), and Ryan Vermette (senior). In Washington, they presented findings from a survey to gauge implementation potential for the new curriculum and determine the most effective ways to encourage colleges to adopt such a curriculum. Energy 101 is designed to teach energy from an interdisciplinary perspective that includes scientific, technological and societal aspects.

“Energy literacy is critical to the U.S. economy and its labor force,” says Szymanski. “Companies want future leaders to be knowledgeable about the role of energy and the impact and consequences of energy development. Educating college students will help increase the competitiveness of our workforce, and develop leaders who can make informed policy decisions about issues like climate change.”

The students’ survey found:

  • 17% of college and universities surveyed do not have courses related to energy or energy literacy
  • 71% rank supporting the institutional mission as a top reason to implement energy literacy courses
  • 77% Believe Energy 101 could support and enhance sustainable campus initiatives
  • 64% believe Energy 101 could help engage non-STEM students and STEM related issues

The overall goal of the trip was to ask congressional leaders to consider raising awareness by giving a brief floor speech on the importance of energy literacy for future generations of Americans, as well as adding a section on energy literacy to the issues page of their websites.

The project is part of a fourth-credit service learning option for a Science in Environmental Policy course at Bentley.

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