Sustainability at Embry-Riddle and Beyond

//Sustainability at Embry-Riddle and Beyond

By Dr. Rachel Silverman and Christie Miller

Many Embry-Riddle students dream of working at Airbus, Rolls-Royce, Boeing, GE, or one of the other big aviation manufacturers. For students to get a job at these companies, it is essential to understand what is important to these manufacturers. Surprisingly, sustainability is valued at many of the largest aviation manufacturing companies. Engineers at these companies are working on aircraft engine design and new propulsion technology with an effort to improve fuel efficiency.  Researchers are investigating alternative aviation fuels. In fact, sustainability has become so important that the Chief Technology Officers listed below have made a commitment to sustainability in aviation:

Grazia Vittadini
Chief Technology Officer

Greg Hyslop
Chief Technology Officer
The Boeing Company

Bruno Stoufflet
Chief Technology Officer
Dassault Aviation

Eric Ducharme 
Chief Engineer
GE Aviation
Paul Stein
Chief Technology Officer
Stéphane Cueille 
Chief Technology Officer
Paul Eremenko
Chief Technology Officer
United Technologies Corporation

(from Safran website,and%20reduced%20CO2%20emissions.&text=Around%20185%2C000%20commercial%20flights%20have,are%20ready%20to%20use%20them.)

In response to the rising interest in sustainability in the aviation industry, sustainability has become part of the conversation at Embry-Riddle.

On January 28, 2020 Embry-Riddle hosted its first ever Sustainability Conference. Sponsored by the Offices of the President and the Provost and organized by Dr. Ted von Hippel, the conference’s goal was to provide a “forum for interested ERAU faculty, students, staff, and vendors to discuss sustainability that impact our campus, our community and our world. Beginning with a keynote speech entitled “Sustainability: ‘… I don’t think that word means what you think it means!’” by General Ron Keys’, the conference offered the ERAU community opportunities to present their research on a variety of sustainability topics through lectures and poster sessions. Presenters stressed the importance of sustainability as both an on-campus effort as well as a path for future careers and higher levels of education. On campus, sustainability was discussed by students involved with the Beekeeping Club, the Food Recovery Network, solar paneled parking lot lights, and the ERAU EcoCar and faculty led projects such as bicycling routes to and from campus, clean energy labs, sustainable study-abroad, and challenges in aviation. In terms of future research and education, topics such as thermal removal of atmospheric CO2, ocean wave erosion of icebergs and glaciers, and addressing freshwater shortages with sustainable desalination were discussed by faculty and students alike. Additionally, a few faculty discussed their work on sustainable pedagogy and the ways in which using concepts like sustainability in the classroom promote and provoke student learning. Overall, the conference was a huge success and offered a wide range of ideas and presenters for its inaugural run.

As noted, many of the presentations at the Sustainability Conference were led by ERAU faculty who discussed their research and pedagogy. These projects undoubtedly work to enhance student learning as well as prepare students for future careers in a variety of STEM fields. For example, Dr. Jason Aufdenberg, a professor of physical sciences, combines research and practice with his daily bike ride to and from campus and his project of geospatial mapping. Dr. Marc Compere, professor of mechanical engineering, has created a real-world, long term, test platform clean energy lab that provides students with scenarios to study realistic electrical loads that mimic a solar powered office. Dr. Ted von Hippel, professor of physical science, works on issues of atmospheric CO2 and using Direct Air Capture as a means of removing CO2. Each of these projects enhances student learning by giving them hands on experience with real life environmental issues.

In a somewhat different pedagogical approach, Dr. Rachel Silverman, professor of communication, uses her class in Environmental Communication to encourage students to develop service-learning sustainability projects. With the help of Christie Miller, she and her students have embarked on projects involving local farms, food banks, and food recovery programs. Drs. Taylor Mitchell and Jeff Brown, professors of humanities and civil engineering, respectively, use their interdisciplinary honors course as a platform for introducing students to the key sustainability concerns societies we are facing today. With students who plan to be, and will be, future engineers, pilots, scientists, and resource managers, the class asks students to “take seriously the development and application of technology and the need to routinely make decisions that have ethical implications for the health and welfare of others.”

Embry-Riddle is providing students with many opportunities to engage with sustainability issues while on campus and be better prepared to work in the aviation industry where sustainability is becoming increasingly more important.


Rachel E. Silverman (PhD, University of South Florida) is an associate professor of communication in the Department of Humanities and Communication at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. She teaches Speech, Introduction to Media, Environmental Communication, Travel Communication and Cross-Cultural Communication. Her research focuses on the intersection of gender performances as they relate to Jewish and LGBTQ identity in popular culture. She also specializes in women’s reproductive health narratives and the role of communication in women’s health medical education. All of her work is grounded in activist rhetoric and the praxis of creating social change.

Christie Miller is the Assistant Director for Career Readiness.  She runs the Eagle Elevate program to help students develop their career competencies and organizes service learning opportunities.  She also teaches Fundamentals of Communication.  She serves on the Green Initiative Committee promote sustainability on campus. 

2020-04-27T07:06:57-05:00June 1st, 2020|General|

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