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IIES Partnerships Bridge Learning Experiences

“Part of what has been most exciting about the Arthur L. Irving Institute for Energy and Society is in its name--the junction of Energy and Society,” says Director of Sustainability, Rosi Kerr. “As developers of co-curricular and extra curricular programming, we see an enormous appetite among our students for learning about the intersection of energy and society. It’s natural for us to want partner in this space, where we can build off of many existing programs, and take them in more expansive and exciting directions.”

It’s for this reason that the Dartmouth Sustainability Office is partnering with the new institute on a number of energy-related programs this fall. These include Energy 101, an eight week seminar series aimed at increasing energy literacy at Dartmouth, and another Energy Immersion Trip to Texas and Louisiana, where students will learn about the regional energy system.

"We have been so delighted to fully engage as partners with the Dartmouth Sustainability Office,” says Amanda Graham, Academic Director at the Irving Institute for Energy and Society. “We've appreciated the tremendous momentum that the Sustainability Office has built over the last 7-10 years on campus with the student body, faculty, and staff, in helping to put Dartmouth on the map when it comes to how we are thinking about the practice of education and research.”

Gillian D’Acierno ‘18, a Studio Art major and Middle Eastern Studies minor, is participating in both Energy 101 and the Energy Immersion Trips Program. “Because of the way my schedule works, I don’t have the opportunity to take courses in some of the fields we’re touching on in Energy 101,” she says. “I’ve done a lot of thinking about where the gaps in my knowledge of sustainability issues are... I’ve realized that I have really strong opinions about energy that are probably influenced by my own biases, but I don’t have a strong knowledge base of a lot of different aspects of the energy system.”

Students, staff, and community members participate in an Energy 101 workshop.

Kerr, who lead an Energy 101 session on “bootstrapping energy fundamentals,” says the series was created to fill in the gaps. “If a student takes a class that introduces them to energy policy, they may not have a good grounding in how energy is delivered. It’s useful to have this grounding because that student may be a policy student and not an engineer. We can also help the engineering student understand the basics of energy policy even if they don’t have time or room in their schedule to take a policy course. We can provide that bridge.”

As Energy 101 provides a “bridge” between learning experiences at Dartmouth, the Energy Immersion Trips Program allows students to take knowledge and skills they learn in the classroom and apply them in the field. Trips offer in-depth, experiential opportunities to examine a regional energy system, its challenges, social, cultural and economic implications, connections to class and race, and impacts on the environment. This December, a group of twelve undergraduates will travel to the Gulf Coast, beginning in Houston, Texas and ending in New Orleans, Louisiana. Previous trips have brought students to West Virginia and Eastern Kentucky, as well as New England and Quebec.

D’Acierno, a student leader on the trip to the Gulf Coast, is excited to have the opportunity to engage in hands-on learning related to energy. “I studied abroad in Morocco my freshman year, and I saw how going and experiencing a culture is totally different than reading about it. That was a time that lead me to really value experiential learning.”

Kerr believes programming like Energy 101 and the Energy Immersion Trips Program will help meet needs of students like Gillian: “Partnering with IIES has brought new depth, rigor and expansive thinking to the learning experiences we deliver. We see an opportunity for us to help students build upon what they’ve learned in a class, understand how those concepts are applied, and gain a sense of what the bridge from a liberal arts education to employment looks like in one of these industries.”

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