June 18, 2019 | 65° F

Green Program teaches students about planetary problems

From hiking on glaciers to snorkeling between tectonic plates, the Green Program aims to show students a new perspective on the environmental challenges facing the earth today.

Students attend lectures on various environmental topics and receive tours of industrial sites during the eight to 10 day program, said Barbora Hroncova, a School of Arts and Sciences junior and a student ambassador for the program at Rutgers.

“The Green Program is an internship program that deals with sustainability and renewable energy. That’s the main focus,” she said. “They’re bringing in students from all majors, not just science majors, (who) are passionate about sustainability.”

There are three locations in Peru, Iceland and Philadelphia, each with its own focus. The students in Iceland learn about sustainability, those in Peru deal with water management and everyone in Philadelphia learns about urban design.

Each of these topics relate back to environmental concerns, she said.

“They have this model of experiential education, so you ... learn about the topic at hand and then you see everything that we learned out in the field,” she said. “We would get industry access.”

Professionals explain their work during the tours of power plants and other industrial sites, said Stephen Amoroso, a School of Engineering senior. Like Hroncova, he is an ambassador for the program and a mentor to students participating in the program for the first time.

“On a typical day we’ll go to our partner university, we’ll have a lecture from the university (about) whatever topic they choose,” he said. “So say you’re in Iceland learning about renewable energy, you could learn about hydroelectric plants and then (later) you see a hydropower plant.”

Programs in the two other countries work similarly.

“It’s a hands-on style of learning,” Amoroso said. “It’ll be set up where we’ll be getting a tour and (professionals) will show us what they do.”

The programs qualify as internships. As such, students receive credits, Hroncova said. Iceland provides 1.5 credits, Peru counts for two and Philadelphia allows students to earn three credits.

Philadelphia University, the host institution of the Philadelphia chapter, also allows students to earn graduate credits, Amoroso said.

To date, 1,537 students from nearly 500 universities have participated in the program, he said. They have created a total of 314 capstone projects.

These capstone projects allow students to demonstrate their understanding of the program, he said.

“I think the point of the capstone project is to start getting creative in this respect,” he said. "They’re not looking for Nobel Prize winners, but they want students to take their passion for sustainability and some of the lessons they’ve learned and apply it to their capstone project.”

The projects are then presented to the instructors within the program. While they are limited to presentations and proposals, some students modify or apply their projects practically after returning home, Hroncova said.

Students can apply at any time to participate in the program.

“They have a rolling application process (where) you can pick your top three dates and locations,” she said. “They get back to you within 24 to 48 hours whether you’re accepted or not.”

While those who participate in the program do have to pay for their trip in advance, there are several methods of earning funding, Amoroso said.

“The prices are similar, they’re all around $4,000” he said. “School of Engineering and School of Environmental and Biological Sciences students have built in scholarships for it (where) you can get $500 to $1,000.”

Other students have used GoFundMe or general scholarships to help pay the costs as well, he said.

This fee pays for housing, food, transportation at the location, tour guides, internship credits and most other expenses. The only other costs students incur are air-fare if they applied to Peru or Iceland, and souvenirs if the student wants them, Hroncova said.

About 45 students will attend the Iceland session at any time, Amoroso said. Peru and Philadelphia each take about 20 students.

These limits are defined by transportation methods. Tour buses and other vehicles will carry the students, a staff member from the program, tour guides and a “mentor,” who is a former student in the program, he said.

There are several dates for each session for students to attend, which are spread across winter, spring and summer breaks, Hroncova said.

The shorter sessions allow students who have full-time internships or other plans for the summer to still be a part of the Green Program, Amoroso said.

The whole point of the program is to let students see sustainability through a new lens, Hroncova said. 

“I think Green tries to get people from all different fields, because the problems that we’re going to tackle are not just engineering problems, and they’re not just environmental science problems,” Amoroso said. “They need all these different people to work together.”

Nikhilesh De

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