School must exploit opportunity

Staff Editorial and Staff Editorial

With good press from the Toledo-area media, alternative energy programs in Bowling Green are flying high. Now the University needs to keep the the energy flowing – figuratively and literally. The new programs need to be integrated into the University’s teaching program on all levels.

Solar panels on the Ice Arena and at city schools and two more newly constructed windmills are a great initial push for the community.

These new installations are the results of great city and university policies encouraging sustainable electricity generation methods. However, the community can go far beyond policies in the area of sustainability; this is, after all, a school before it is a bureaucracy.

BGSU needs to use this new infrastructure as what it is; a great teaching opportunity in many disciplines, including technology.

The University of Toledo has received over $6 million in grants for solar research over the last three years, according to the Sept. 30 edition of the Toledo City Paper. The Paper article also notes that one of the largest solar technology producers in the world – First Solar LLC – has its biggest facility in Perrysburg Township, just a few minutes north of Bowling Green.

What is BGSU doing to follow UT’s example?

The answer is hardly impressive. While BGSU has popular majors in environmental science and environmental policy, its curriculum shows little technological interest in the impressive local energy scene.

The windmills in town are the largest east of the Mississippi river. The solar facility north of town is one of the largest in the world. The University shows little sign of caring about this, much less exploiting it; PR materials for the environmental science major – the closest thing to an alternative energy specialization at BGSU – make virtually no mention of the area’s exclusive technology. This is mostly because the University has not aggressively funded environmentally technology education. This means that BGSU loses potential students, reputation and research money to UT and Owens College, which are agressively pursuing scientific research in the area.

While BGSU students in programs like GeoJourney and Vision ‘ Values study at site-specific “hub” institutions around the country, BGSU could be gaining reputation as a similar hub of focused and exclusive research.

There is a hiring freeze partially active right now. Once it is lifted, the University should make it a high priority to create, fund and advertise an Energy Technology major or concentration. This is one area in which BGSU has the potential to leapfrog dozens of other large research institutions. Just as importantly, it will bring the student body one step closer to the opportunity for a fully-rounded education – one which includes technology.