Food Service & Agriculture, Health Care, and Sustainability

GVSU introduces Sustainable Food Systems Certificate

The certificate is offered to both degree- and non-degree-seeking students.

February 13, 2015
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As higher education costs rise, Grand Valley State University is introducing new ways for people to get the education they need without having to spend the thousands of dollars associated with a four-year degree.

GVSU has begun introducing certification programs, the most recent being its 15-credit Sustainable Food Systems Certificate. The certificate requires students to take five classes.

“I think it is a response to some changes in what our students and potential students really need and what they are looking for,” said Kelly Parker, director of environmental studies and professor of philosophy.

“It may not be feasible to do a four-year undergraduate degree, but somebody who has the qualifications and interest wants to do a much more focused program. It makes the teaching mission and the educational resource of the university available in another format that I hope will work well for a lot of people,” Parker said.

The certificate is offered to both degree- and non-degree-seeking students, and Parker expects many professionals involved in sustainability might be interested in obtaining the certification.

For instance, he said, “people in the community who would really like to know more and get some hands-on experience with sustainable agriculture techniques. You could do that on your own, you could work at a farmers market, intern at a farm, spend a lot of time at the library trying to learn the principles of nutrition and so on, but this puts it all in one package that is run through GVSU’s regularly scheduled courses.”

Parker said the value is in the package of courses, which have all gone through the university’s curriculum review and approval process and are taught by GVSU professors. The package ensures certification holders will have studied sustainable food systems “through a variety of lenses with some academic rigor,” Parker said.

“Not everybody is going to have that,” he added.

He said the Sustainable Food Systems Certificate would serve as a nice complement to several majors and minors, including natural resource management or hospitality and tourism management.

He noted GVSU is seeing growth in its environmental studies minor and in the green movement on campus. He noted the college has seen a healthy interest in its Sustainable Agriculture Project and Farm Club.

Of the five classes required for the certificate, Introduction to Environmental Studies and Sustainability and the Sustainable Agriculture Project are both required. Students then choose three electives from options including plant biotechnology, international food and culture, the science of soil and sociology and food.

“Introduction to Environmental Studies and Sustainability is an interdisciplinary look at environmental studies and sustainability,” Parker said. “It is really taking a holistic view of a large cluster of environmental concerns and exploring the concept of sustainable living.

“The Sustainable Agriculture Project is almost entirely hands-on. A faculty member will be leading a group of students through learning principals of sustainable agriculture that takes place at our on-campus farm here in Allendale, which is a working farm run mostly by students.”

Parker said he’s already aware of two students who will graduate in April with the certification.

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