By Brecken Branstrator
Newark, Del.—Today’s market requires jewelry companies and professionals to address sustainability and responsible sourcing, but the question of how to do so isn’t easily answered.

In response to the growing need for sustainable development training, the University of Delaware has developed a Minerals, Materials and Society graduate certificate program.

Under the leadership of Saleem H. Ali, Blue and Gold Distinguished Professor of Energy and the Environment at UD, the MMS program is among the first of its kind in the United States, according to the university.

Classes start in January, and the program will take an interdisciplinary approach to linking science and policy issues associated with mineral and material sourcing.

Designed with mid-career professionals in mind, particularly those in sustainability and supply chain transparency, the program aims to equip students with the skills they’ll need for jobs pertaining to sustainable supply chain management, and environmental and social responsibility.

Offering a comprehensive look at the mineral supply chain and key skills and solutions is vital for the industry, which is “very vulnerable to reputational loss” because jewelry is not essential for survival, Ali told National Jeweler.

“It’s one where you really need people to feel a certain sense of comfort about buying a product that is responsibly sourced,” he said. “That’s why understanding where minerals come from and what are the vulnerabilities in terms of environmental and social impact is particularly relevant.”

The sustainability program will examine not only mined mineral resources but also man-made materials as well as recycled and remanufactured options.

The program also will explore “post-carbon communities,” reinventing communities that have been dependent on extractive industries to find alternative sustainable livelihoods.

“One of the goals of this program is to not only help different sectors understand what the issues are but also how to address them—what’s happening, what are the options, how do you answer the questions? And then—how does the whole industry move forward? What do you do after extractives? How can you move the needle?” said MMS Program Manager Patricia Syvrud, a GIA graduate gemologist and former executive director of the World Diamond Council.

Classes are offered in a hybrid model. Most will be taken online, but students also will participate in one-to-two-week intensive on-campus classes during the summer and winter sessions and field course offerings.

There are three required classes: Certification Systems for Sustainable Development, Minerals and Ecological Economics, and Sustainable Management of Risk in Industry.

Additionally, students must choose an experiential laboratory and then achieve the 15-credit requirement through chosen electives, which are either on-campus or online courses.

Experiential learning opportunities and research partnerships are offered through collaborations with several international universities, including the University of Queensland’s Sustainable Materials Institute in Australia and the National University of Science and Technology in Russia.

For example, one of the modules features a study-abroad program in Russia. “Innovations in Legacy Mining: Lessons from the World’s Largest Iron Ore Mine in Russia” will focus on improving management of the coexistence between agriculture and mining.

The university is welcoming undergraduate students to take courses offered through the program or professionals who want to take individual courses in relation to a specific area.

Applications are being accepted now on a rolling basis.

The 15-credit program can be completed in 18-24 months; the cost is $1,100 per credit hour.

Ultimately, UD hopes companies in the jewelry industry will see the importance of the certificate and offer to pay their employees’ tuition and/or give them time off for the on-campus courses (without them having to use vacation time), or that companies will sponsor students in developing countries so they can get the certificate.

“This is a good opportunity for them to help with social mobility of the communities where they’re operating and getting their minerals,” Ali said.

UD also is looking for financial support through its MMS Leadership Council, which industry leaders can join; a council campaign with an honorary industry chair will be launched shortly.

Financial support will provide funds for scholarships, stakeholder engagement meetings and development of sector-specific industry training programs.

For full program information, visit the UD website.

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