Yale unveils Energy Studies program

In an effort to create an academic track that caters to undergraduates interested in the scientific, economic and social impact of energy production, the Yale Climate & Energy Institute unveiled a new Energy Studies program this week.

YCEI announced on Monday that it is accepting sophomore applications for the program, which will commence in fall 2013. YCEI Executive Director Michael Oristaglio GRD ’74 and Director Mark Pagani said the program aims to equip students with the skills necessary for leadership in energy-related fields. Energy Studies will not be a stand-alone major, and students will complete Energy Studies in conjunction with the requirements of a standard major in Yale College. Pagani said he expects 20 to 30 applicants for the first class of Energy Scholars.

“We’re hoping to create a unified way of thinking about energy that integrates different disciplines,” Oristaglio said.

Oristaglio said the program was designed to promote the interdisciplinary nature of YCEI. Students enrolled in the program must complete electives in at least two of the program’s three areas: energy, science, technology and systems; the environmental impact of energy; and energy policy, economics and social issues.

Pagani said the YCEI faculty deliberately chose to make Energy Studies a program rather than a major in order to allow students to apply their studies in energy production to broader academic fields.

“We have excellent majors in environmental engineering, environmental studies, geology and geophysics,” Yale College Dean Mary Miller said. “I think scholars and studies programs can be developed to help us take advantage of relations with other institutes like YCEI.”

The proposal to create an Energy Studies program gained support from Yale administrators because it was heavily student-led, Oristaglio said, adding that students first met with YCEI faculty members to formulate plans for the Energy Studies program several years ago. After more meetings with students this fall, Pagani and Oristaglio submitted a proposal for their new program to the Yale Course of Study Committee in December. They also conducted a survey of Yale undergraduates to assess enthusiasm for the program and found that over 100 students expressed interest in one residential college alone.

The program is in final review by Yale College, Pagani said, and faculty will formally vote on the program at the May Yale College faculty meeting. Miller said she tasked an ad-hoc committee chaired by Dean of Undergraduate Education Joseph Gordon to evaluate the launch of scholars programs such as Energy Studies and Education Studies.

Students enrolled in the Energy Studies program will be assigned a YCEI adviser and are expected to complete a capstone senior project, which can take the form of an essay, a research study, or a summer job or internship in an energy-related field. Miller said the ad-hoc committee evaluating programs of study will focus particularly on features such as the Energy Studies capstone project that encourage experiential education and summer opportunities connected to students’ fields of study.

Tess Maggio ’16, a YCEI undergraduate adviser, said she is most attracted to the Energy Studies program because of its capstone requirement.

“Through an internship or final project, students will become further connected to people in the field of energy and will have the opportunity to actually have an impact on the issue,” Maggio said.

Oristaglio said he hopes the program will give undergraduates more opportunities to interact with YCEI, encouraging students to take advantage of the institute’s lectures and resources. He added that he hopes it will incentivize faculty to create new course offerings focusing on energy production. Geology and geophysics professor Brian Skinner said he thinks the Energy Studies program will allow students who do not have extensive science backgrounds to take classes that expose them to timely issues such as climate change and fossil fuel trends.

“This new program is going to cater to a range of levels and interests,” Skinner said. “Yale already offers a course on wind energy, but only students with a heavy science background enroll. Now students from all different disciplines can study this important subject.”

Members of the Undergraduate Energy Club provided YCEI faculty with feedback as the institute designed the program, UEC president Andrew Goldstein ’13 said, adding that UEC members promoted a multidisciplinary approach.

Applications to the program are due May 15 and accepted students will be notified by June 28, according to the program’s website.

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