Source of Energy

Students in Karin Warren’s Energy & Society class conduct an energy audit at a nearby home.

Class learns practical lessons from energy audit of local home

Students in Karin Warren’s Energy & Society class conduct an energy audit at a nearby home.

Students in Karin Warren’s Energy & Society class conduct an energy audit at a nearby home.

A 94-year-old home not far from campus became a learning laboratory for a group of Randolph students in an Energy & Society course this semester.

After several class discussions about energy efficiency and economics, Karin Warren, the Herzog Family Chair of Environmental Studies, challenged her students to study the house and make recommendations for an upcoming renovation. What upgrades would cut energy costs the most?

The students combed through the house, checking attic insulation, windows, and appliances. They also took turns using a thermal imaging camera to identify where heat escaped the home. The students then compared the data collected from the house with data from a home that was recently renovated for energy efficiency.

The energy audit was more than just a way to practice skills useful in a sustainability-related job. It was also an exercise in applying critical thinking to answer real- world questions. Warren, like many Randolph professors, understands the need to provide students with this type of practical experience whenever possible.

“Our students have to communicate well and have solid quantitative and analytical skills,” Warren said. “They have to have hands-on skills. That means our curriculum has to be infused with practical experiences.”

Students in Karin Warren’s Energy & Society class conduct an energy audit at a nearby home.

Students in Karin Warren’s Energy & Society class conduct an energy audit at a nearby home.

“Professor Warren is really good at making sure we have not just what we need to graduate, but also what we need to succeed in our future career and life,” said Sara Woodward ’16, one of Warren’s advisees. “She goes above and beyond to make sure we have all the opportunities to prepare us.”

Woodward has been interested in environmental issues for as long as she can remember. But it was her first class with Warren that convinced her to major in environmental science. The personal attention she receives from professors like Warren has helped Woodward develop her long- term aspirations. Recently, she mentioned an interest in sustainable architecture, and she and Warren began exploring “tiny houses,” which feature compact, creative designs to reduce the amount of space and energy used.

Students in Karin Warren’s Energy & Society class conduct an energy audit at a nearby home.

Students in Karin Warren’s Energy & Society class conduct an energy audit at a nearby home.

The result was a Summer Research project that will allow Warren, Woodward, Hagay Haut ’16, and Randolph’s Sustainability Coordinator Ludovic Lemaitre ’11 to study building codes and tiny house design.

“She’s really good at encouraging our own ideas and passions,” Woodward said. “She really listens to what we want and what we’re interested in. And the next day, she’ll have ideas for different classes, internships, and graduate programs.”

Practical experiences help students apply the critical thinking and problem-solving skills that they learn from the liberal arts, Warren said. This helps students develop flexibility that will serve them well throughout their careers.

“We don’t know what jobs are going to be out there in 10 years,” Warren said. “But we do know our students will have the skills to equip themselves for those jobs.”