Marian University’s Institute for Green and Sustainable Science (IGSS) has received a highly competitive grant from the federal government that will fund the well-regarded summer program for at least two more years, according to Carl Lecher, Ph.D. ’97, associate professor of chemistry and director of the institute. Marian University received the only such grant for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Region 5, comprising Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, and Wisconsin.
The IGSS Summer Program is held on the campus of Marian University, and is taught by faculty from the Marian University School of Mathematics and Sciences. In addition to an innovative curricular component, participants can engage in research anchored in one of the four EPA environmental priorities.
Previous research topics have ranged from studying the effects of habitat fragmentation on song sparrow behavior, to chemical and biological investigations of endocrine disruptors, to examination of the hydrogen evolution properties of candidate hydrogen storage materials, to waste minimization in high school laboratories through the implementation of green chemistry techniques and procedures.
IGSS participants make contributions to the broader community both on and off campus. This summer IGSS is partnering with the Hoosier Environmental Council and Keep Indianapolis Beautiful.
“At no other point in history has an understanding of sustainability been so vital to humanity’s survival,” Dr. Lecher said. “Natural resources are being depleted at an alarming rate; yet, sustainability solutions are poorly served in politics, the media, and even some sectors of education. Many times, individuals feel overwhelmed by an excess of information (and sometimes disinformation), and sustainability and its related issues are often seen as too massive or challenging to conquer individually.”
The EPA awarded the $216,000 Environmental Education Grant to support the IGSS Summer Program’s goals. Participants in the intensive, seven-week program develop scientific skills to understand diverse environmental sustainability issues, and utilize critical thinking and problem solving skills to make smarter and more informed decisions in their personal, professional, and civic lives and the desire to positively impact those around them.
IGSS was established in 2009 as a partnership between Lecher and IGSS co-director, Roderick Macrae, Ph.D., associate professor of chemistry. “Marian University was the first university in the state of Indiana, and one of very few institutions in the United States, to offer a comprehensive green organic chemistry laboratory curriculum,” said Lecher. “This curriculum was developed in 2003 and has been offered ever since.” IGSS serves as an umbrella organization embracing the interests of Marian University faculty in ecology, green chemistry, and energy science.
The first IGSS Summer Program was offered in 2009, and has grown to include college students from Marian University and regional institutions, as well as high school science teachers. IGSS alumni have experienced great success in gaining coveted internships, being admitted to graduate schools, and receiving job placement upon graduation. Among this year’s group of 14 participants are teachers from Cardinal Ritter, Pike, and Hamilton Southeastern High Schools.
Students from the University of Dayton and Wabash College will join eight students from Marian University’s School of Mathematics and Sciences in the program. Participants in the program pay no out of pocket expenses, earn a $400-per-week stipend, and receive five credit hours toward their degree or continuing education.
“While environmental consciousness is not a new concept,” said Lecher, “at the societal level the majority of people lack the scientific literacy to recognize and incorporate sustainability practices. Utilizing the science of sustainability as a model system for the teaching of sound science is a novel way to improve science literacy at every level of society. At the center of such education is an understanding of sustainable practices, from consumer activity, through building processes, to the energy economy. Effective environmental education will cultivate a scientifically literate citizenry that is well-prepared to tackle the problems of modern society.”
The EPA’s goal is that the IGSS Summer Program will serve as a model for the creation of similar programs across the nation.