"Global warming is a top issue for all the environmental organizations. It's impacting everything out there," says Alan Capelle, director of Upper Iowa University's Madison campus. That motivated Capelle to expand Upper Iowa's environmental coursework. Not only does Upper Iowa prepare students for a greener business future, but it raises their consciousness of environmental issues in all areas of life.
Upper Iowa University's Madison campus offers evening and weekend classes to returning students looking to complete their bachelor's degrees. Thanks to Capelle's efforts, Upper Iowa now has three undergraduate environmental courses on the books: Global Warming, Building an Eco-Economy and Environmental Science. Two - Global Warming and Building an Eco-Economy - were created and are taught by Capelle, whose background is in natural resources management and earth science.
According to Capelle, Upper Iowa is the only college or university in Wisconsin to offer a permanent course on global warming and climate change. The last eight-week term he taught, this past fall, enrollment was the highest ever, with over 40 students participating.
Debbie Tripalin, a psychology student at UIU with a background in business, took the class as a science elective. Before taking it, she "hadn't been paying attention to what's out there regarding our earth."
The class examined what global warming is and what is happening to our environment right now. It also addressed local issues, such as the recent proposal for a coal-fired energy plant to be built at Cassville. Speakers included a representative from Clean Wisconsin and a NASA scientist discussing climate threats to the planet such as severe hurricanes and drastic temperature changes. The final project involved learning in-depth about the Midwestern Greenhouse Gas Accord and giving comments to the greenhouse gas task force.
"I feel like I entered into something that is important," says Tripalin. "I learned what I can do to help, and I've shared that with my friends, children and spouse."
Building an Eco-Economy, a course launched by Capelle in 2002, covers everything from green business practices to greening your home to suburban sprawl. The course looks at ways to use energy more efficiently, and how being green can actually be more economical for a business. Green businesses are featured, with discussions about what led them to become green, how they manage to stay green and how they profit from being green. "This is a real eye-opener for students," says Capelle, "because they can interact with several business owners who have adopted a new business model of coexisting with the natural environment."
Field trips for the class have included visits to Best Dry Cleaners, Cedar Grove Cheese and Parts Now.
Upper Iowa is working toward offering an 18- to 21-credit green business minor as early as September. The minor could be attached to a bachelor's degree program in business management.
As part of the green business minor, UIU hopes to offer an international environmental course every two to three years, which would be held in Sweden. "Sweden is at the center of sustainability and being green," says Capelle. "Its whole society is built on being light on the planet."
In the meantime, Capelle says, Madison is a good area for environmental coursework. "A lot of employers are actively looking for graduates who have that type of emphasis. These students know how to set up a green business, how to maintain it, ecological economics to environmental systems an employer can set in place for any given company, and how to transform a company into a green company." These skills add a lot of value - at home and on the job.