Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The Real World, Part Two

Students are constantly exhorted that the point of their education is to prepare them for work in the "real world". The college experience is understood to be a transition in that process and doesn't count as a real world experience. But as the following will evidence, it may be that an important set of lessons is being learned in the informal curriculum.

As students return to their respective colleges this month it is interesting to observe how the dwelling space has evolved. featured a photo essay of where we have been and where we might be going.

Their take of new slick dorms features the for profit examples built by American Campus Communities. These campuses have realized that marketing quality of dorm life is a key element in recruitment.

Simpler, more environmentally responsible projects are gaining momentum as revealed in this article; "Sustainable dorms" By Marcia Passos Duffy, featuring students at Sarah Lawrence and American U.

The Sarah Lawrence students conceive of their space as a living laboratory.

Casey Roe, an environmental studies major at American U says: College students are the ideal population to encourage sustainability on both a personal and a community level, Roe says, adding that American University opened its first environmentally friendly dorm this year. "College is a good place to breed this kind of behavior," Roe says. "If one person starts, it can spread pretty quickly to all areas of the college."

And to other colleges as this summary demonstrates.

A great example is the Graduate Housing recently built at Harvard. Top designers are now building LEED certified dormitory structures.

Students are also plugging into conceptions of their future. An award winning design expressed some of the greenest dwelling space as a dorm.

Respecting the environment while at college leads to habits that continue after graduation, says Yevgeniy "Gene" Gutsalo, who graduated in May from Binghamton University in Binghamton, New York, with a degree in economics.
"I wasn't even aware of the movement until I got to college," says Gutsalo, 21, who lives in New York City. While at college, he participated in competitions among dorms to decrease energy usage and increase recycling. "I don't know if there was a winner, or if anyone cared if there was one, but everyone did their part, and it made an impact on me."

The experience probably left him ecologically minded for life, Gutsalo says. "I decided not to buy a car, I bring my own mug to work, I still turn off electric appliances, I still recycle and reuse," he says. Rather than feeling like a weighty responsibility or a sacrifice, "it's become second nature."

And that is really the point of teaching sustainability, Sarah Lawrence's Justin Butler says. "The beauty of it is that none of this requires moving back to the Stone Age. It does require a lot of dedication on changing everyday behavior," he says. "But it is hopeful because, after a while, it becomes so easy."

More important than the structures that contain them is the fact that students are living communally, sharing a wealth of resources, and learning lessons about how to live in the "real world" they will eventually inhabit.

1 comment:

  1. Had to add this