Real Estate

Starting Next Month, SMU Will Offer a Master's Degree in Sustainability and Development

That structure you see at left is called a Pallet House, made out of ... aw, you cheated. Anyway: It was initially built in Prince Charles' Royal Gardens as part of a sustainability confab, and on Friday it'll find its way to the SMU campus, perhaps as future housing for head-coaching candidates. No, wait. That's not right. It's actually being set up on the Hilltop to serve as a beacon for the future: On Friday the university will formally announce the creation of a master's degree in Sustainability and Development.

It's no small deal: The Hilltop, you'll recall, had its Engineering & Humanity Week back in April, where Friend of Unfair Park Harvey Lacey debuted his mud-covered house walled entirely with bricks of compacted plastic bags, bottles and Styrofoam. From there, Harvey took his creation from Wylie to Haiti -- all by his lonesome.

But in April, back at SMU, among those pitching in were Hunter and Stephanie Hunt, namesakes of the university's Hunt Institute for Engineering and Humanity -- which, so happens, is behind the degree being offered by SMU's Bobby B. Lyle School of Engineering. In short: The April event was far from a one-off. On Friday, Peter Bishop -- who heads the mayor of London's Design for London livable-cities think tank -- will give a talk at 11 a.m. Friday at Caruth Hall; he'll be joined at some point by, among others, Dallas City Manager Mary Suhm, who's been invited "to put the focus on Dallas."

I called Harvey to ask him about the new degree. He's pragmatic enough to know a master's from SMU alone won't change the world. "But the old way's going away," he says. "It's being sabotaged every day. There's a force out there. It's nuclear. They'll find a way. ... These kids are all struggling to find something to believe in. The kids who will take these courses will change the world. It's like teaching a guy to weld. He can become an absolute artist. They're giving them skills to change the world."

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Robert Wilonsky
Contact: Robert Wilonsky