Western Washington University Institute for Energy Studies

Overarching Narrative:

The use of conventional energy sources leads to a variety of global, regional, and local environmental problems, which are worsened when energy is used inefficiently. Carbon emissions related to energy use is a prime example.  Finding appropriate technical and policy solutions to these problems requires an examination of numerous issues related to current and future energy sources, including their production, distribution, and consumption. Public and private responses to these problems are spawning a complex “new energy economy.”

This new energy economy – from renewable power to energy efficiency – represents a tremendous economic opportunity for the state of Washington. Today, our state ranks 10th among all 50 states in terms of clean economy jobs, and the Seattle area ranks 13th among the 100 largest metro areas, according to the Brookings Institute.[1]

Western Washington University recognizes that the state’s ability to harness this untapped economic potential requires an innovative approach to higher education. To ensure the state has access to a robust talent pool of future leaders, Western is launching a first-of-its-kind Institute for Energy Studies to provide students with the diverse mix of skills necessary to tackle this complex global challenge and to advance the new energy economy.

Key Messages:

1.      Western Washington University’s Institute for Energy Studies represents a paradigm shift in how students are prepared to succeed in a future which requires an integrated, multi-disciplinary approach to solving problems.

  • Combining science, technology, economics, business and policy, it is believed that the Institute for Energy Studies will offer the nation’s first interdisciplinary, undergraduate degree focused on preparing students to become leaders in the new energy economy.
  • Students will study across disciplines to gain competencies in energy-related fields and will have the opportunity to participate in energy research with nationally recognized faculty-mentors.
  • The Institute combines three colleges: Western’s Huxley College of the Environment, the College of Business and Economics and the College of Sciences and Technology.
  • One minor degree is currently available, another will be launched soon and Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Science degrees will be available within the next few years, possibly as soon as the fall of 2014.
  • The Institute complements Washington’s research universities by developing an elite class of graduates who are uniquely prepared to pursue PhDs in related fields.

2.      WWU’s Institute for Energy Studies addresses the unmet need for professionals able to understand the critical linkages between science, technology, economics, business, and policy and how they combine to advance the new energy industry.

  • National industry leaders agree that what’s missing from today’s workforce are individuals who can think across disciplines – from understanding the science of climate change to product commercialization to the policy landscape – and can apply a diverse set of skills to solve a real-world problems.
  • Graduates will have the strong, interdisciplinary foundation needed to solve the complex challenge of spurring the national economy while also addressing the need for clean technologies and sustainable sources of power.

3.      The Institute will play a major role in supporting the state of Washington’s leadership position as an incubator for innovation in the promising new energy economy.

  • The Institute is preparing a workforce ready to propel Washington to the forefront of the national movement to integrate clean technologies and sustainable sources of power.
  • By combining expertise in business and economics with a strong understanding of science, technology and policy, graduates will have the right mix of skills to manage and grow successful businesses in the state of Washington.
  • Graduates of the program represent the next generation of leaders in Washington and will be individuals with entrepreneurial spirits who possess the skill sets and knowledge to start new business and help grow the economy.

4.      Western Washington University has a successful legacy for adopting an interdisciplinary approach to higher education.

  • The Institute for Energy Studies is another example of Western’s innovative approach to higher education which is introducing savvy, interdisciplinary problem solvers to the workforce. The Institute continues Western’s tradition of environmental leadership, research innovation, and its commitment to outstanding undergraduate education.
  • Western Washington University is the highest-ranking public, master’s-granting university in the Pacific Northwest, according to the 2011 U.S. News & World Report college rankings.
  • Western has a long tradition of developing rigorous liberal arts curriculums, combining cutting-edge research, an emphasis on applied learning, community engagement and private sector partnerships.

[1] http://www.brookings.edu/~/media/series/clean%20economy/53.pdf