The Board of Regents recently approved a new graduate degree in sustainability at Black Hills State University, a move that will prepare students for cutting-edge careers in a variety of industries in South Dakota.

 “Sustainability is part of our strategic plan,” Dr. Rodney Custer, BHSU provost and vice president for Academic Affairs, told the BOR last week.

Dr. Custer provided the board with projected statistics onthe future job market for in the sustainability field. A 2008 report by the U.S. Congress of Mayors, “U.S. Metro Economics: Current and Potential Green Jobs in the U.S. Economy” estimates that there were about 750,000 green jobs inthe United States as of 2006. That number is projected to increase to more than 2.5 million by 2018, nearly 3.5 million in 2028, and 4.2 million in 2038.

Sustainability is also an emerging field in South Dakota. The Greening of the South Dakota Economy, a report published by the South Dakota Department of Labor and Regulation, states “there is a growing interest in jobs that preserve and restore environment.”

“BHSU is responding to the expansion and diversification ofSouth Dakota’s economy by providing a state-of-the-art program in an emergingand professional field,” according to Dr. Custer. “We are excited to be on the cutting edge of this.”

Dr. Kathryn Johnson, BOR president, said a large percentage of jobs South Dakota students will have a few years from now haven’t even been invented yet.  Jobs related to sustainability are examples of that, she said.

“These are the kind of jobs that weren’t invented 10 years ago, but now they are out there,” she said.

Environmental sustainability has been a priority for BHSU for several years. BHSU was the first university in South Dakota to sign the Presidential Climate Commitment. The BHSU campus also has two LEED certified buildings, the Life Sciences Lab and the Student Union. The Student Union, which is where the BOR meetings were held, was the first state building to earn this standard.

“Sustainability is an emerging field, but an important area of study as society ensures we have the water, materials, and resources to protect human health and environment,” according to Jack Warner, the regents’ executive director and CEO.

Graduates of the sustainability program will be prepared for careers in natural resource management, renewable energy, and community planning in such South Dakota-specific industries as wind energy, hydroelectric power, geothermal energy, green construction techniques, and bio-fuels.

The degree will be offered online starting next fall. Contingent upon demand, the degree program may also be available at off-campus higher education centers in Rapid City and Sioux Falls.

BHSU students and faculty have shown initiative in incorporating sustainability into their academics as well as their daily lives. Two BHSU professors have developed a native plant ethnobotanical garden on campus. Last year, a group of BHSU business students sold reusable “green” bags to reduce the number of plastic bags used locally. BHSU students used art to send a message on the effects the widely used shopping bags have on the environment. Several art students also recently incorporated recycling with the artlessons they presented their classmates, and two BHSU students started abusiness, Cans 2 Cans Recycling LLC, where they are making recycling aluminum cans more convenient.

In other action, BOR also approved a master’s degree in secondary education at BHSU. The graduate degree meets the needs of students with bachelor’s degrees who are seeking secondary education certification at the graduate level. BHSU now has seven graduate degree programs.