ND Energy Announces Seventeen Graduates of the Energy Studies Minor in 2021

Author: Barbara Villarosa


Seventeen undergraduate students from the University of Notre Dame have successfully completed the requirements of the Energy Studies Minor (ESM) The minor, which is administered by the Center for Sustainable Energy (ND Energy), prepares students to become successful leaders in the energy field and informed citizens who understand the complexities of the world’s energy challenges. 

Energy Studies Minor Graduates 2021

The Class of 2021 represents 14 different majors in five colleges/schools: College of Arts and Letters, College of Engineering, College of Science, Mendoza College of Business, and the School of Architecture. Students completed coursework ranging in topics from energy, economics, and the environment (engineering); geopolitics of energy (political science); energy, justice, and Fukushima (business); wind turbine design (engineering); green Japan (history); social factors and sustainability (architecture); and sustainability accounting (business).

“I appreciated the diversity of the minor in terms of majors and getting to hear about energy from so many different perspectives,” said Isabel Puno, civil engineering major with a concentration in structural engineering.

“The variety of students and academic backgrounds was what made this minor valuable to me. The flexibility and wide range of course options also gave me the freedom to choose what I wanted to learn,” said James Guckenberger, chemical engineering major.

The Minor’s requirements consist of two, three-credit required courses, nine credits of electives, and a one-credit capstone course. A new split-term capstone course was implemented this year, grouping incoming minor students with those nearing completion of the minor.

“This intentional mix of knowledge enabled students to have in-depth group discussions, where new students brought fresh ideas and perspectives to the table, while the more experienced students shared their knowledge from courses already taken and other professional development experiences,” said Anne Berges Pillai, education and outreach associate program director of ND Energy and minor administrator.

“I liked the community building and sharing within the capstone seminar. Not only was it fascinating to hear about other peoples’ activities, but it provided a space where I could get to know other students in the minor,” said Thomas McCoy, science-business major.  

Chandler Kotsesos, another science-business major, had a similar experience. Kotsesos said, “The interactive discussions were great, and each course I took in the minor contributed significantly to my overall academic experience.”

As part of the new capstone seminar, students were required to select an individualized experience based on their own interests and backgrounds, ranging from jobs and internships to research to volunteer work. Because many of the potential internships were canceled due to the pandemic, students had to be proactive and creative in finding meaningful ways to explore the role of energy in their lives. These personalized experiences were shared with classmates through formal presentations and follow-up conversations. Some of the presentations by this year’s graduates are listed below:

  • “The Energy of Produce” by Cole Caspar, accountancy major
  • “Fuel in the Trucking Industry” by James Guckenberger, chemical engineering major
  • “Fuel Cell Catalysis” by Chandler Kotseos, science-business major
  • “Where the Rubber Meets the Road: The Energy Impact Behind Self-Driving Cars” by Thomas McCoy, science-business major
  • “Net Zero Buildings” by Isabel Puno, civil engineering major
  • “Energy Considerations in Medical Imaging and Treatment” by Daniel Spalinski, physics in medicine major
  • “Analytics in Energy Systems” by David Torgerson, business analytics major
  • “Energy of Coastal Boulder Deposits” by Alexis Van Blunk, environmental engineering major
  • “Energy and the Notre Dame Football Team” by Garrett Verfurth, neuroscience behavior major
  • “CSR Plan at Oil and Gas Company” by Christian Viracola, finance major
  • “Sustainable Design in Architecture” by Yiman Wang, architecture major

By using a holistic approach to teaching the minor, students are able to gain a deeper understanding of the various aspects related to energy. According to Peter C. Burns, academic advisor, Henry J. Massman Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering and Earth Sciences, and director of ND Energy, “The integrated approach of the minor is extremely important for pursuing successful careers in an increasingly complex world. Examining energy from multiple perspectives enables students to be more creative and effective in developing sustainable energy solutions. It is our hope that graduates will be in a better position to tackle the current climate crisis and ensure a clean and sustainable energy future for generations to come.” 

The minor is open to undergraduate students in all majors at Notre Dame. Since the minor began in 2012, there have been 149 graduates. To learn more about the minor or to join, contact Anne Berges Pillai at apillai@nd.edu or 574-631-9106.

About ND Energy:

ND Energy is a University Center whose mission is to build a better world by enabling advancements in energy-related research and educating students to help solve some of the most critical energy challenges facing the world today. For more information, visit the ND Energy website at energy.nd.edu or contact Barbara Villarosa, Business and Communications Program Director, at bvillaro@nd.edu or 574-631-4776.

Originally published by Barbara Villarosa at energy.nd.edu on June 29, 2021.