Students study sustainable
development in Australia

College of Architecture's summer program focuses on market-based solutions

The College of Architecture at Texas A&M University is teaching Aggies about market-based, sustainable development solutions through its annual summer study-abroad program in Australia.

Sustainable development, as defined by the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, is "forms of progress that meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs."

Australians have long been innovators in this area, implementing solutions that balance the continent's natural assets with both human and capital pressures for development.

"There is a strong correlation between a nation's environmental quality, economic development, citizen welfare, land productivity and social health," explained J. Thomas Regan, dean of the College of Architecture. Australia, he said, consistently ranks high in comparative indexes of environmental sustainability and offers the best examples and case study models of successful sustainable development.

"Because Australia, and the state of Queensland, in particular, continue to be leaders in sustainable development" Regan said, "there may be no better place to learn about sustainability."

Each summer students spend five-weeks traveling approximately 1,400 miles along the Queensland coast from the tip of the Cape York Peninsula to metropolitan Brisbane. The trip is equivalent to a journey from New York to Miami. Venues include a multitude of resort communities on Australia's east coast, the Australian Institute of Marine Science and the Cromarty Wetlands in Townsville, and several government environmental agencies in Brisbane.

The Australia program enables students to examine actual projects that are world-class models of sustainable development. Students have an opportunity to interact with the projects and the stakeholders, not only gaining knowledge but providing input as well.

"They find this interactive, experiential learning unforgettable," Regan said.

The program is led by Michael McCarthy, professor of landscape architecture and urban planning at Texas A&M.

"The underlying foundation of this education program is the necessity of a balanced gain over time in innovative business enterprise, environmental stewardship and community well-being," McCarthy said. "By demanding a continuous net gain standard for our generation, and each successive generation, we will be assured that the global human and natural capital for future generations will not be compromised."

Jennifer Flanery, an urban planning major who participated in the 2001 program, said the experiences she had in Australia helped her gain a perspective on the issues faced by developers today.

"The program taught me that there are environmentally positive and profitable solutions to these problems," Flanery said. "What I learned will change the way I think about solutions both in my future studies and in my career."

Chris Jennings, land development and construction management major and 2001 participant, said before he took the trip, he was not overly concerned with the environment.

"I was under the opinion that environmentalism was a radical concept that was better left to scientists and the government," Jennings said. "Through this experience, I realized that environmental concern was not a matter of abstaining from activities deemed detrimental to the environment. Instead, I realized that intelligent thinking and planning can meditate many of the ill effects of development," Jennings said. "Rather than avoiding environmental issues, I now feel that I have a problem solving approach to these matters."

According to Regan, the obligation and recognition of sustainability as a collective responsibility is a new challenge and a responsibility that the College of Architecture embraces.

"Our annual sustainable development education program provides students with a curriculum of on-the-ground case studies that address all dimensions of sustainability," he said. "Each year the program offers an exceptional opportunity to learn about the challenge of sustainability. These students will become tomorrow's leaders in creating a world that achieves a continuous net gain — balancing economic development with environmental stewardship, and human well-being."

The College of Architecture is a campus leader in providing international study venues for Texas A&M students. Its Australian program has proven to be one of its most popular programs, attracting an assortment of students from disciplines across the university.

Graduate students and advanced-level seniors interested in learning more about the College of Architecture's International Sustainable Development Education Program in Australia should e-mail Michael McCarthy at or call 845-1605. Additional information is also available through the "International Studies" link on the college's Web site:

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