College offers seminar series on energy

by Charles Chen | 9/24/18 2:40am

Dartmouth community members interested in energy will now have access to a new seminar series revolving around energy use in society.

On Sept. 18, a group of around 50 participants met in the Life Sciences Center for assorted snacks and the first in a series of lectures as part of the Energy 101 seminar series. The eight-week series, which will feature lecturers from different academic disciplines, was designed to present an overview of energy systems as they relate to the global economy and impact everyday living.

Energy 101 was organized by the Arthur L. Irving Institute for Energy and Society. According to the Institute’s mission statement, its goal is to work to “improve the availability and efficient use of energy for all people.” The Institute was created in 2016 after an $80 million donation from Irving Oil, Ltd., The Arthur L. Irving Family Foundation, Arthur L. Irving, his wife Sandra Irving and their daughter Sarah Irving ‘10 Tu’14.

Environmental studies professor Elizabeth Wilson, the Institute’s inaugural director, led the lecture and discussion at the first Energy 101 seminar.

“[Through the Irving Institute], we can have broader conversations that include the business community, the technology community, as well as people in art history, history and Russian and even Middle Eastern studies,” Wilson said in an interview. “Energy is big — to be able to look at it in all its bigness is our superpower.”

Partners with the Energy 101 program include the Thayer School of Engineering, the Office of Sustainability and the Revers Center for Energy at the Tuck School of Business.

“People were talking about the different parts of [energy], but weren’t talking about it with each other,” Wilson said. “The goal of [interdisciplinary partnerships in Energy 101] was to think about having those conversations together.”

The seminar, which is now closed to sign-ups and has a waiting list, was open to faculty, staff and students, as well as members of the Hanover community.

“From the get-go, we wanted to bring the community together with the students,” said Irving Institute academic director Amanda Graham, who will lead a future session of Energy 101.

On Tuesday, attendees included undergraduate students, professors, visiting graduate students, retirees, high schools students, members of the Sustainable Hanover Committee and other Hanover residents.

According to Hanover High School senior Glen Passow, he attended the seminar with his parents on Tuesday night because of his interest in the intersection between business and energy.

“As much as government has a role in changing our energy use, to have change on the scale we need, it needs to make economic sense,” Passow said.

Will Dickerman ’21 said he attended the Energy 101 seminar because he is interested in energy from a policy perspective.

“I’m really interested in what the U.S. can do to improve its energy security,” Dickerman said.

The first lecture, entitled the “Big Picture Overview,” began with Wilson introducing energy usage patterns around the globe before discussing usage differences between regions within the U.S. Time was also allotted for small group discussions following Wilson’s presentation. Future Energy 101 seminars will cover topics such as legacy energy systems and energy economics.

Graham and Wilson were both keen to emphasize how, beyond just a series of educational lectures, the motivation for the creation of Energy 101 was to create a community of energy-conscious individuals from throughout the area. The first meeting ended participants introducing local energy-related events and opportunities to the group, which brought together the efforts of members of the College community, the town of Hanover and local businesses involved in sustainability.

Graham says that Irving Institute-sponsored events are still in the experimental stage and will likely evolve in future years.

“We had to make some choices about what’s in and what’s out — you can’t cover everything in eight hour-and-a-half sessions,” Graham said. “We will be interested in hearing feedback from the group about what we’re experimenting with.”

According to Graham and Wilson, the Irving Institute is currently developing an internship opportunity for students during winterim called the Energy Bridge Program, modeled after the Tuck Bridge program.

“We are thinking about it as an intense boot camp experience, five-and-a-half full days of digging deeper than is possible in short seminar sessions,” Graham said. “We are hoping to leverage experience gained [from Energy 101] in this program.”