December 12, 2016 8:45AM
There probably aren’t many Pittsburg State University seniors busier than Cole Morrison.
If he’s not in class, you might find him on the road, heading to a site visit for a potential solar power installation, or back at his office at CDL Electric, working on a solar panel installation design.
“Right now I’m pretty swamped,” Morrison said. “I’m on the phone a lot with utility providers, getting metering applications turned in and code specifications done on system designs. There’s a lot that it entails.”
Morrison, originally from Iola, will graduate from PSU in this week, but he’s already hard at work in an area that he says he’s passionate about. Morrison has turned his experience in PSU’s Bachelor of Integrated Studies Degree in Sustainability, Society and Resource Management (SSRM) into a career.
“I really had had no idea what to major in when I came to PSU,” Morrison said. “I already had some credits because of dual credit classes in high school. I pretty much had all my preliminary classes out of the way, so I had to make a decision quickly.”
Morrison met with an academic adviser who pointed him toward Jim Triplett in the Department of Biology when she learned of his passion about the outdoors and the environment.
“Dr. Triplett introduced me to sustainability and I got right into it,” Morrison said. “I took a couple of classes and really enjoyed it.”
CDL Electric, meanwhile, had been thinking about adding a sustainable energy division to its growing operation. Larry Seward, owner of the company, said he expects the demand for solar energy, in particular, to continue to grow for the foreseeable future and he knew his company needed to be part of that growth.
Seward’s son, Dustin, who is also a Pitt State student, met Morrison through mutual friends and suggested a meeting between Morrison and his dad.
Seward said his meeting with Morrison convinced him that he would be a good choice to help CDL build its new division.
“I really liked his energy,” Seward said. “He’s a good people person and has a lot to offer.”
Morrison signed on, but knew he had a lot to learn. The SSRM degree, the only one of its kind in Kansas, is a broad program designed to provide interdisciplinary experience and credentials for students who may want to work in a variety of fields, ranging from city and local government, conservation, wildlife management, land development or business. Morrison still had a lot to learn about the nuts and bolts of solar panel installation.
“I did a lot of self educating,” Morrison said. “I took a lot of online courses. I learned a lot from people in the field. Our dealers and some of the people who helped us get the ball rolling on the solar division have been really helpful.”
Alicia Mason, an associate professor in the Department of Communication, is the program coordinator for the BIS in Sustainability, Society and Resource Management. She said many of the students who have gone through SSRM, like Morrison, have paired the program with either graduate study or government and industry experience.
“We are very fortunate to attract the interest of a wide variety of students who appreciate the interconnectedness of the sustainability triad (economics, environmental and social equity) and seek to improve the lives of others in the communities they serve,” Mason said.
According to Mason, recent SSRM graduates are working in jobs such as local and regional planning and zoning, conservation mapping and public health.
Morrison is just beginning his career and can’t predict where it will take him in the future, but right now, he said, he’s in an exciting place.
“I have a passion for this and this is what I want to do for the rest of my life,” Morrison said.