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First greenhouse gas management and accounting graduates face uncertain job market

(Collegian File Photo)

Some of the first students of the Greenhouse Gas Management and Accounting program are graduating from this recently developed degree amidst a time of political opposition to their field.

The master’s degree, Greenhouse Gas Management and Accounting, is the newest addition to the Ecosystem Science and Sustainability program at Colorado State University. Implemented in the fall of 2015, two students have completed the program with two more expected to graduate this spring.

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Alex Lim, one of the first two students who graduated from the master’s program in December 2015, is currently managing a Fort Collins restaurant while searching for a job related to her degree. Lim said her entrance into the job market was an issue of timing.

“When I first started the program, I was fresh out of my undergraduate at CSU, and the political climate was much more favorable to this field,” Lim said. “I really thought that when I graduated I would be in an up-and-coming field. It turns out, unfortunately, that was not the case.”

Jensen Morgan, a graduate student of this degree, is on track to graduate this spring. He said he knew that there were risks to being one of the pioneers to the program.

“It was equal parts interesting, exciting and also a little bit nerve wracking,” Morgan said. “Greenhouse gas (reductions) at the federal level are not entirely supported, and the current administration is definitely pulling back a lot of support.”

Professor Rich Conant, the the Associate Dean for Academic Affairs in the Warner College of Natural Resources, said it is legitimate for students to worry about job security. Conant, who developed the degree program, recognizes federal progress in reducing greenhouse gas emissions will likely slow during President Donald Trump’s administration. However, he said the rest of the world is continuing to make progress.

“Most countries are making efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions,” Conant said. “So, that means in order to manage greenhouse gas emissions, we need to know what the emissions are, where they are coming from and what it will cost to reduce those emissions.”

That is what this degree aims to prepare students for. Morgan said that the curriculum is focused on policy and history, as well as quantification and measurement of greenhouse gas emissions.

Federal opportunities for this skill set may be diminishing, but there are still ways for students of this degree to find work. Morgan said there are places to apply his knowledge in city, state and private sectors.

Morgan has an internship at the Brendle Group, a private firm that provides consulting on sustainability practices. The company offers many services from increasing energy and water efficiency to finding ways to implement renewable energy in utility companies.

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Before graduating, Lim interned at the Center for the New Energy Economy, which helps guide policy change at state levels. Through her current searching, she said that she was able to find more opportunities in small private companies.

“I have found more success in smaller companies looking for people to help them operate more sustainably and reduce their losses,” Lim said.

While Lim recommends this program for the professors and curriculum, she said she could have used additional help learning to market herself in the current job market. The one thing Morgan said he would change would be to add courses that train students in management, negotiating and other skill sets required in a business setting.

Although the current job market for this field has its uncertainties, students in the Greenhouse Gas Management and Accounting program said they understand that what they are learning has value.

“In some ways people are more passionate about it because they know this work is important,” Morgan said. “And, we need to be pushing it at all levels since there is not going to be federal support for it, at least not for the moment.”

Collegian reporter Ty Betts can be reached at news@collegian.com or on Twitter @TyBetts9.

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