A university professor has created the USC Student Energy Network, a platform through which students and faculty can learn about the future of energy and better connect to the USC community.
USCENE is the brainchild of professor Mark Bernstein and research assistant Ryan Kallabis. Bernstein, a practice of political science professor, said he had been considering creating a group such as USCENE for two years.
“You have to learn from all other pieces to be successful at making decisions [or] you’re not going to get that through a major,” Bernstein said. “This is an opportunity to diversify your knowledge.”
Bernstein was inspired to create the club after hearing about the Harvard Energy and Environment Network from a professor at Harvard College.
USCENE will provide an opportunity for students to network with other students, faculty and outside experts through a series of discussions, meetings and field trips.
“I really wanted to find a way to engage students in energy issues outside the classroom,” Bernstein said. “I want to find a way to get students across disciplines to talk to so we can create the next generation of decision makers who are going to make better choices on energy than my generation did.”
USCENE will accept up to 75 students, both undergraduate and graduate, from any major or department. More than 20 students are already enrolled.
Students in the network will learn more about the technology and economics of energy resources, and the role politics plays in those fields. Enrolled students will be able to share experiences, meet experts in the field, visit energy facilities and demonstrate their work.
Bernstein said he hopes students across all majors will share ideas, find relationships across their disciplines and develop energy projects. The goal is to trade information and spark collaboration between interested students, he added.
Kallabis, a senior majoring in political science and a research assistant at the USC Energy Institute, said the energy job market is expanding and it is critical for all students to be very familiar on the subject of alternative energy.
“For any student, this is the biggest opportunity for us,” Kallabis said. “Never burn any bridges and close any doors. It’s a network that will be with students when they leave and graduate.”
Brook van Muijen, a senior majoring in political science, said he is joining the club because he wants to learn more about the most effective long-term energy solutions.
“People tend to look at alternative energy issues and simply look for the road to make profit,” van Muijen said. “The network is giving us a better idea of what is the best idea of what is actually most innovative for the future.”
Bernstein said the network would students him a hands-on opportunity to integrate their interests with USC’s research efforts.
“You learn stuff in class, but that doesn’t give you all the pieces you need to understand a broader view of the energy issues,” Bernstein said.
There will be at least three networking events, two meetings and one group trip. The meetings will feature speakers and discussion sessions on different topics. Trips could include visits to wind farms, Southern California Edison hydroelectric facilities, refining operations and solar research facilities.
Though tentative plans have been made for the group, Bernstein said they would change as needed.
“I want this [to] evolve with what the students decide what they want,” Bernstein said. “I am seeding it and I want it [to grow] and we will continue to support it through the energy institute.”