New Sustainability Major To Be Available This Fall

Morgan C. Mullings, Outreach Manager

When undecided freshmen arrived at the St. John’s College Majors Fair, they encountered an entirely new major: Global Development and Sustainability.

After the graduate program for Global Development and Social Justice was approved in 2017, the possibility for an undergraduate addition arose. Dr. Barbara Koziak, the director of the major, with the help of Italian professor Annalisa Saccá, is taking the practical application of sustainability in everyday life and giving it an international perspective. The B.A. was approved in late 2017 and classes will begin Fall 2019.

Some young New Yorkers may see sustainability as an urban trend — promoting more green spaces, dropping off compost and shopping with reusable bags — but sustainability isn’t just a buzz-word. The major brings politics, anthropology, economics and international studies together. It has already drawn 10 students to officially declare it as their major.

According to Koziak, global development and sustainability coincide because supposed “developing countries” have been using sustainable practices, such as using food waste for fertilizer, that developed countries can learn from.

“The standard [for developed countries] was industrialization, but that has changed,” she said. In this major, she wants to teach new perspectives on what defines a “third world country.”

Dr. Jeffrey Fagan, dean of St. John’s College, asked Koziak to be the director of the major. Her history as a professor at St. John’s speaks to the interdisciplinary approach to the major — she teaches classes on political theories and governments around the world, often with a focus on gender equality.

“I would like to see students focus on that aspect of development,” she said. Koziak is a self-proclaimed “proud Czech-American.” She is a refugee in what was then known as Czechoslovakia, the now modern-day Czech Republic. Seeing how much politics mattered in a small country occupied several times by other leaders, she uses her refugee perspective in her teachings.

“The major is the study of how to improve our lives all around the world,” Koziak said. She added it will include anthropology, government, language, economics and other disciplines, with a science track and a social science track.

Freshman Kya Sykes has not chosen a major but took time to read the pamphlets at Koziak’s table. “I didn’t know it was a new major,” Sykes said. “I think it’s really important to have, the way our world is impacted by global warming.” She added that there is a need for people who are ready to sustain and help the environment.

Tabitha Benitez, a graduate assistant in the English department, said she also had no idea the major existed, but that there are graduate students that she knows are now “pursuing a social justice minor.”

When asked about those uninterested in sustainability as it pertains to the current discussion on climate change, Koziak said, “Just look at the reports.” The changes in forests around the world, the recent extreme weather events and the decline in the general insect population are bound to be topics of discussion in class.

As a result, Koziak hopes that students can approach a governmental or nonprofit organization with the knowledge to bring global relief.

One internship is required for the degree. Post-grad options include the Peace Corps, the United Nations, Catholic relief organizations and much more. She said she hopes students will leave with, “An intimate sense of how people are connected around the world.”