The bandwagon is green, and Caryn Wright just jumped on it.
Wright, 30, is an environmental studies major at UNLV. She’s passionate about environmental issues.
“It’s really the only major that spoke to me,” she said.
She wants to go into consulting, in which companies hire her to help them figure out how to navigate all the environmental regulations they often have to contend with.
So, which minor to pick? Political science? Business?
Nothing seemed quite right.
Which was why it was perfect timing when the University of Nevada, Las Vegas announced it was adding a minor in solar and renewable energy this fall. Perfect.
“It’ll really complement my major,” said Wright, the first student of about 20 so far who have signed up for the minor. “They’ll go hand in hand.”
Tom Piechota, UNLV’s director of sustainability and multidisciplinary research, said a $500,000 gift from NV Energy got the minor off the ground. The money will be used to finance the program, including scholarships, research, equipment and internships, school officials said.
“Southern Nevada is the epicenter right now of solar interest,” said Tony F. Sanchez, NV Energy’s senior vice president of public policy and external relations.
He said the company funded a similar program at the University of Nevada, Reno a couple of years ago, and it has been a big success. He noted that NV Energy expects to need workers skilled in renewable energy in the future. So providing shareholder money to help train them seems a no-brainer.
Piechota said he found only about a dozen universities (including UNR) offering this or a similar minor. UNLV is perfectly suited for it because of its Southwestern location and what many see as the potential growth in sustainable technology in coming years.
There is great interest at UNLV and in the region in general in renewable energy, as evidenced by last week’s National Clean Energy Summit at the university.
Any student can sign up for the minor. It will have two areas of focus: policy or engineering and science.
Piechota said he’s gotten inquiries from students in business, the hotel college, engineering, architecture, environmental studies and others. Many want to broaden their resumes by showcasing that they’ve been trained in what’s seen as a growing field.
“I think adding on to your core degree can make that degree even more valuable,” he said.
Wright, the environmental student, intends to focus on policy. She figures it’ll give her an edge in the job market when she gets there.
Vik Sehdev also wants an edge. He graduated from UNLV in engineering this past spring. He tested the job market, found it unkind, and decided to go back for his graduate degree now rather than waiting a few years, as was the original plan.
He’ll be focusing on construction for his master’s degree — but he’ll also be helping out as a graduate assistant in the new renewable energy minor and doing research in that area.
“I wish they’d had this when I was an undergrad because of the huge push in the industry,” said Sehdev, 23. “We’re seeing things we’ve never seen before.”
Soon, he said, there will be a great need for engineers and policymakers who understand solar and renewable energy issues. Those poised to take advantage of that need will be in the best position for the best jobs, he figures. Combine that training with his construction engineering know-how and he thinks he’ll be good to go as soon as he gets his master’s degree.
Contact reporter Richard Lake at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0307.