Jun 22, 2024  
2019-2020 Catalog 
2019-2020 Catalog [ARCHIVED CATALOG]

Energy Studies

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Dr. Joel Swisher, PE, Director

The Institute for Energy Studies (IES) at Western Washington University (WWU) is a multi-college collaboration that offers interdisciplinary undergraduate degrees to address the science, technology, policy, business and economic aspects of energy systems. The growing WWU energy curriculum includes courses and degrees in Electric (energy) Engineering (BS, ABET-certified), Energy Science & Technology (BS), Energy Policy & Management (BA), and Business & (energy) Sustainability (BA), as well as minors in Energy Policy and Energy Science.

Why study energy? Access to modern energy services, including efficient usage, is essential to realize 20th century, let alone 21st century, living standards worldwide. Meanwhile, a transition from inefficient use of fossil fuels to a clean, efficient energy system is key to mitigating urgent environmental, economic and security risks, including global climate change. Achieving the sustainable energy transition was identified by the United Nations as a “transformational challenge” for our generation.

Addressing this grand challenge requires an interdisciplinary approach that provides both breadth and depth, with a practical toolkit of technical and analytic skills in a context of system-level thinking and understanding. The IES builds on WWU core strengths in collaborative, experiential learning, involving undergraduates in research and community engagement, working closely with practitioners in the local community to study and execute clean energy projects and programs. We take a practical approach, using the campus and community as our laboratory for hands-on learning, while collaborating with cities, utilities and energy firms in the region.

From the outset, the IES has been driven by student interest and guided by the advice of its advisory board, composed of leaders in the region’s energy industry. Our programs are designed to meet the future workforce needs of Washington’s emerging clean energy economy, which emphasizes clean energy technology, energy efficiency, smart systems, environmental mitigation and entrepreneurial solutions.

Understanding the technology and economics of energy use reveals opportunities for new technologies and policies to improve energy efficiency throughout the economy, reducing costs and emissions. As the electricity industry evolves from a static, centralized structure toward dynamic, distributed models, there will be new challenges to integrate and balance resources as diverse as solar, wind, hydro, bio- and fossil-fuel energy with smart grids, smart buildings and plug-in vehicles. Technologies to make fossil fuels cleaner and substitute biofuels are in development. Our graduates will find opportunities to develop innovative ideas, from advanced technology to new business models, that transform the energy system toward a more sustainable path.

We expect that WWU energy students will acquire the appropriate foundation in math and science underlying energy processes and systems. They will learn applied energy economics and have the opportunity to build management or entrepreneurial skills and analytic tools in key fields such as electric power, energy efficiency, building science and greenhouse gas management. The IES also links to WWU’s Entrepreneurship and Innovation program, with the goal of preparing graduates to become both founders of new enterprises and disrupters of existing businesses in need of innovation, including energy utilities.


The Institute for Energy Studies integrates rigorous educational programs, applied research and community service to meet the growing demand for interdisciplinary education and training related to the science, technology, policy and business aspects of human production and use of energy.


The Institute for Energy Studies is a regional and national leader in providing practical and innovative education of future energy experts and decision makers.


JOEL SWISHER, PE (2014) Professor and Director, Institute for Energy Studies. BS (civil engineering), Stanford University; MS (mechanical engineering), Stanford University; PhD (civil engineering: energy and environmental planning), Stanford University.
CHARLES BARNHART (2014) Assistant Professor. BS (physics and astronomy), University of Washington-Seattle; PhD (planetary geophysics), University of California-Santa Cruz.
ANDREW BUNN (2006) Professor and Founding Director, Institute for Energy Studies. BS (zoology) The Evergreen State College; MEM (resource ecology) Duke University; PhD (environmental science), Montana State University-Bozeman.
MARK BUSSELL (1990) Director and Professor. BA, Reed College; PhD, University of California-Berkeley.
REID DORSEY-PALMATEER (2015) Assistant Professor. BA (economics), Pomona College; MA, PhD (economics), University of Michigan.
CRAIG DUNN (2005) Wilder Distinguished Professor of Business and Sustainability. BA, MBA; California State University; PhD, Indiana University.
STEVE HOLLENHORST (2012) Professor and Dean, Huxley College of the Environment. BS, University of Oregon; MS, University of Oregon; PhD, Ohio State University.
JOSHUA FISHER (2010) Assistant Professor. BA, Bucknell University; MA, University of Oregon; PhD, University of Oregon.
XICHEN JIANG (2016) Assistant Professor. BA, University of Illinois; MS, University of Illinois; PhD, University of Illinois (electrical engineering).
BRAD JOHNSON (1997) Professor and Associate Dean, College of Science and Engineering. BS, University of Colorado, MS, University of Colorado, PhD, University of Colorado.
TIMOTHY KOWALCZYK (2014) Assistant Professor. BS (chemistry and mathematics), University of Southern California; PhD (physical chemistry), Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
TAMMI LANINGA (2015) Associate Professor. BA (environmental policy), Western Washington University; MA, PhD (design & planning), University of Colorado.
ERIKA McPHEE-SHAW (2017) Professor. BA (physics) Dartmouth College; PhD (oceanography) University of Washington.
TODD MORTON (1988) Professor. BSEE, MSEE, University of Washington.
GREGORY O’NEIL (2008) Associate Professor. BS, Boston College; PhD (chemistry), University of Colorado.
DAVID PATRICK (1996) Professor. BS, University of California-Davis; PhD, University of Utah.
JENNIFER SELTZ (2012) Assistant Professor. BA, Brown University; MA, PhD, University of Washington.
IMRAN SHEIKH (2017) Assistant Professor. BS (biomedical engineering), University of Wisconsin; MS, PhD (energy and resources), University of California-Berkeley
ART SHERWOOD (2014), Professor and Director, IDEA Institute. BA, University of Wisconsin; MBA, Indiana University; MS, Indiana University; PhD, Indiana University.
SHARON SHEWMAKE (2013) Assistant Professor. BA, Duke University; PhD, University of California-Davis.
PETE STELLING (2011) Assistant Professor. BA, Western State College, Colorado; PhD, University of Alaska-Fairbanks.
PHILIP THOMPSON (2009) Associate Professor. BA, Kent State University; PhD, University of Arizona.

Other Departmental Information

Advising and Declaration Process:

Students must have confirmed admission to Western Washington University and met the grade and course requirements listed below. Students who wish to register for an Energy Studies major or minor should contact the Institute for Energy Studies office (Arntzen Hall 303). Students interested in the electrical engineering major with the energy concentration should contact the Engineering program coordinator/pre-major advisor. Students interested in the business and sustainability major with the energy concentration should contact the College of Business and Economics faculty advisor.  

Grade Requirements:

A grade of C- or better is required for a student’s major or minor courses, and supporting courses for majors and minors. A GPA of 3.00 or above is required in courses for energy programs.


    Bachelor of ArtsBachelor of ScienceMinor


      Energy Studies

      Courses numbered X37; X97; 300, 400 are described in the University Academic Policies  section of this catalog.

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