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Monthly Archives: December 2016

Will You Help Save the World through Renewable Energies Studies?

Why Renewable Energies are the Future

The U.S. Energy Administration recently forecastrenewable energies to be the fastest-growing power source through the year 2040. Which begs the question: What makes “renewable energies” such an important area?  While the world has long relied on fossil fuels, including coal, oil and natural gas, for energy, these are nonrenewable — meaning they draw on finite resources which are not only dwindling, but also increasingly expensive and environmentally destructive.

Conversely, renewable energies — the most prominent being solar, wind and hydropower, but also including biomass, geothermal, ocean and others — can be perpetually created or recreated. In other words, they are self-sustaining and so never run out on the timescale on mankind.

Countries all over the world are turning to renewable energies in the hopes of reversing our dependence on fossil fuels and harnessing the full potential of new technologies. Says Dr. Martin Heinrich, an administrator and instructor at Germany’s University of Freiburg, “Slowly governments and decision makers realized that renewable energies may allow a sustaining electricity generation for the future, which also avoids the huge emission of greenhouse gasses and dependencies on oil producing countries. This has been shown by the COP21 agreement in Paris and also companies such as BP, Shell, Total, Statoil, Repsol and Eni starting to invest into renewable energies or into methods of reducing oil and gas usage.”

In the US alone, investments in the renewable energies sector rose from $8 billion in the first quarter of 2004 to $50 billion in 2015’s first quarter, according to data from Bloomberg New Energy Finance, with more utilities companies investing in alternative energy solutions.

Within the RE sector, meanwhile, wind energy is taking an increasingly prominent position, according to the University of Kassel’s Dr. André Bisevic: “[2015 and 2016] were two impressive years for the wind industry worldwide. In 2016, 54,6 GW were installed all over the world. Especially the strong appetite for wind energy in China is responsible for this development.  It can be assumed that the increasing demand will continue in the coming years. According to estimates of the highly reputable Massachusetts of Technology (MIT), wind power could supply circa 26 percent of China´s projected electricity demand in the next 15 years.” The result? Positive environmental and economic effects around the globe.

The Job Market Is Booming

On a macroscopic scale, renewable energies have the power to change the world. But we also need people to make that happen — specifically, people with the knowledge and expertise to understand and implement renewable energies. Because of this, the field is developing at a staggering pace, and is expected to continue to do so in the decades ahead.

According to HowStuffWorks, “With increasing government and private funding of renewable energy, the industry as a whole is exploding, and along with it the number of potential jobs in the green-power sector…If there were such a thing as a sure thing, expansion in green-energy employment opportunities would be it. It’s a huge market, encompassing solar power, wind power, geothermal energy, biofuels and hydropower, for a start. Research and development are ongoing, large-scale capability is increasing, and real-world implementation of renewable-energy technologies is growing by the day.”

Echoes Heinrich, “The huge interest by governments and companies worldwide increases the need for qualified personnel in the field of renewables and solar energy.”

Looking to Germany

Germany is leading the pack when it comes to renewable energies, and largely regarded as an example to the rest of the world. Not only is the country pioneering new renewable energy technologies and applications, but it’s also aggressively rejecting fossil fuels toward the ambitious goal of cutting carbon emissions by at least 80 percent by the year 2050.

According to a National Geographic piece on Germany’s energy revolution, “While most countries have been free riders, Germany has behaved differently: It has ridden out ahead. And in so doing, it has made the journey easier for the rest of us.”

It follows that Germany’s higher education institutions would also be pioneers in teaching in this field. Says Heinrich of the country’s teaching role since officially passing its Renewable Energies Law (“Erneuerbare Energien Gesetz”) more than a decade ago, “This period of 12 years of experiencing the impact of renewable energies in the electricity mix for a huge economy like Germany helped to push the development of solar energy and renewables and it created a huge amount of knowledge in this subject in Germany….Now that renewable energies are cost competitive with other technologies and are more and more employed in other countries, the people in Germany would like to aid adopters all over the world to repeat the great success by avoiding all the obstacles and mistakes.”

Consider the Fraunhofer Academy, which comprises the renewable energies programs offered by the University of Freiburg and the University of Kassel, where Heinrich manages the school’s Solar Energy Engineering program and André Bisevic coordinates the Master in Wind Energy Systems.

For students looking to make their own contributions in the field, these programs offer critical knowledge, training and experience[1] .  For example, students in the Solar Energy Engineering program have the chance to develop, design, and optimize solar energy devices and systems with real, world-changing potential.

Meanwhile, Fraunhofer’s Wind Energy Systems program — offered by the University of Kassel in scientific partnership with Fraunhofer — aims to further wind power research and technology. According to Dr. Bisevic, the Online M.Sc. in Wind Energy Systems addresses how to manage the technical and economic integration of a large amount of wind energy into the energy supplier system as well as the design and development of innovative concepts for the single components of the wind energy converter system, including the nacelle system, the rotor blade and the support structures.

As if safeguarding the planet for future generations and a robust job market aren’t reason enough for people to pursue studies in this fascinating field, Heinrich points out yet another incentive. Particularly for students with interests in engineering, math and the natural sciences, the subject of renewable energies is compelling one thanks to the richness of its scientific and technological concepts involved.

8 Inspiring Women Artists Worth Getting to Know

1.Hildegard of Bingen

She lived most of her life in solitude in a hilltop Rhineland monastery more than 900 years ago, but her legacy is a lasting one.  According to Classic FM, “This remarkable woman had left behind a treasure-trove of illuminated manuscripts, scholarly writings and songs written for her nuns to sing at their devotions.” And yet her name didn’t even appear in a reference book prior to 1979.

While in her lifetime Hildegard’s work was never heard beyond the walls of the remote convent where she lived, Today, she is regarded as one of the first known composers of music in Western history, and praised for her “sublime, life-affirming” music. After all, how many 12th century works can claim contemporary hit status? That’s exactly what Hildegard accomplished when her song A Feather on the Breath of God sung by soprano Emma Kirby enjoyed popular success in the 1980s.

And did we happen to mention that Hildegard was also canonized as a saint and is credited with being the founder of scientific natural history in Germany?

2. Sofonisba Anguissola

The life of a female artist during the Renaissance and Baroque periods was anything but easy. While their male counterparts were being heralded as virtuoso, AKA “mortal Gods,” they were denied by critics who regarded them as the “passive sex” and unworthy of wielding the painter’s brush. Says Artsy, “These women fervently fought back, developing innovative painting techniques and advancing younger generations of female artists, teaching them to eschew the men who would try to stifle their development.”

One of the female Renaissance artists who is now globally recognized for her contributions to both the genre of portraiture and gender conventions. Sofonisba Anguissola, whose groundbreaking Self Portrait with Bernardino Campi (1550) is described by Artsy as “a nearly 500-year-old rejection of patriarchal authority.”

3. Agnes Denes

This Hungarian-born American conceptual artist is celebrated for her work in a huge range of media, including everything from poetry to sculpture and beyond. Her best-known work, the environmental installation Wheatfield — A Confrontation (1982), juxtaposed two acres of wheat in the heavily populated spaces, rubble-strewn spaces in lower Manhattan. Denes has said that her motivations for the work “grew out of a long-standing concern and need to call attention to our misplaced priorities and deteriorating human values.”

In her book, Fragile Ecologies: Contemporary Artists’ Interpretations and Solutions, Barbara Matilsky wrote, “The project was an exuberant and daunting task celebrating the tenacity of life. By creating an artwork with wheat, a grain planted throughout the world, Denes also called attention to hunger and the mismanagement of resources. Wheat was transformed into a symbol, as the artist’s work highlighted incongruities…The activities of the city and the countryside came together for a brief time. After harvesting, the hay was fed to the horses stabled by the New York City Police Department and some of the grain traveled around the world in the exhibition “International Art Show for the End of World Hunger” organized by the Minnesota Museum of Art, 1987-90). The ecological cycle was thereby complete.”

4. Rachel Whiteread

Before the age of 40, British artist Rachel Whiteread had already received the annual Turner Prize, and she’d been chosen as one of several Young British Artists to exhibit at the Royal Academy’s Sensation exhibition. Today, she lives and works in London.

Says Gagosian of her work, “Rachel Whiteread’s approach to sculpture is predicated on the translation of negative space into solid form. Casting from everyday objects, or from spaces around or within furniture and architecture, she uses materials such as rubber, dental plaster and resin to record every nuance. In recent large-scale works, the empty interiors of wooden garden sheds were rendered in concrete and steel, recalling the earlier architectural works Ghost (1990), House (1993), and the imposing concrete sculpture Boathouse (2010), installed on the water’s edge in the remote Nordic landscape of Røykenviken.”

5. Georgia O’Keeffe

In giving 20th century painter Georgia O’Keeffe a spot on its list of “The 10 Most Subversive Women Artists in History,” The Guardian explained, “Compared with some artists in this list she may seem soft, but her cussed exploration of her own body and soul mapped out a new expressive freedom for women making art in the modern age.”

Largely regarded as a pioneer of American art, she produced thousands of works throughout her career, and was most known for her depictions of flowers, skyscrapers, animal skulls, and southeastern landscapes. She received both the Medal of Freedom and the National Medal of Arts for her contributions.

Of her work O’Keeffe said, “I found I could say things with color and shapes that I couldn’t say any other way – things I had no words for.”

6. Louise Élisabeth Vigée Le Brun

In addition to painting Marie Antoinette more than 30 times in her capacity as the queen’s personal portrait painter, she also left behind more than 600 portraits and 200 landscapes.

What separates Vigée Le Brun from the others on this list? She was famous in her own time as one of France’s most popular portraitists. After fleeing France during the French Revolution, she was welcomed by the aristocrats of Europe — including Russia’s Queen Catherine — who continued to commission her fashionable signature work.  She eventually returned to France, where she painted such luminaries as the Prince of Wales, Caroline Murat (Napoleon’s sister) and author Germaine de Staël.

7. Harriet Powers

This southern African American quilt maker born a slave in Georgia in 1837 is well-known for her extraordinary work which depicted scenes from both American history and the Bible using the applique technique. Today, Powers has only two surviving story quilts: One is now part of the National Museum of American History collection at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. while the other is on exhibit at Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts.

Says the Georgia Encyclopedia, “Powers’s quilts are remarkable for their bold use of applique for storytelling and for their extensive documentation. Her use of technique and design demonstrates African and African American influences. The use of appliqued designs to tell stories is closely related to artistic practices in the republic of Benin, West Africa. The uneven squares suggest the syncopation found in African American music.”

8. Lavinia Fontana

It’s hardly a surprise that Italian painter Lavinia Fontana has been categorized as a “subversive and inspirational” artist. After all, she was the first woman artist to paint female nudes. She also boasts the largest documented body of work among female artists before 1700.

Says the National Museum of Women in the Arts of Fontana, “She made great strides in the field of portraiture, which garnered her fame within and beyond Italy. In fact, Fontana is regarded as the first woman artist, working within the same sphere as her male counterparts, outside a court or convent.”

While certainly women’s contributions to art are recognized more now than they were in the past, gender inequality is still an issue as women remain underrepresented throughout the art world. (Need more proof? Check out the numbers for yourself.) Which begs the question: Are you up for the challenging of doing your part to “put an end to sexism in art?”  If so, a master’s degree program in Art may be the perfect place to start.

Why it’s Never Too Late for A Master’s in Design Studies

1. STEM and Design

STEM and design go hand-in hand.  Design work requires critical thinking and planning to solve complicated, community-based problems. When STEM students consider projects like building a self-propelled vehicle, or designing a sustainable garden ecosystem, they need to draw on their scientific knowledge in addition to their design knowledge.

When Steve Jobs designed the first Macintosh computers, he cared as much about the engineering and programming as he did about the aesthetic and form of the product—that the appearance of the product should match the seamlessness of the math and science behind it—even down to the font.

2. Business and Design

A great business idea isn’t going to work without great design.  They go hand-in-hand.  At the center of any business plan is user experience, or UX.  Design helps business students understand how user experience and design interface are related.  Business majors should focus on learning UX principles.  What does this mean?

Make your product data-driven.  Test and tweak your product until your data shows which UX configurations work the best.  This way, users tell you about their experience, and you design based on that.

Practice.  Mockup your design with good old-fashioned paper and pencil.  Design a website, an app, or even a popular product’s homepage.  Why?  It forces you to think about translating user needs to interface.

Get inspired.  Study well-designed websites to figure out how the designers maximized UX.

3. Humanities, Social Sciences, and Design

Design is embedded in our everyday lives—with the intent to improve standards of living for people.  How we listen to music.  How we talk to people.  How we buy food.  How we consume media.  How we go to the doctor.  How we use transportation.  How we raise our children.  Where we live and why.

Design education promotes visual literacy—from signs, symbols, emblems, pictures, and emojis, design is intrinsic to our daily perceptions of the world around us.

Its focus on critical thinking encourages designers in the humanities and social sciences to re-imagine how we think about the world’s problems: pollution, overpopulation, poverty, hunger, healthcare—and how we create positive “user” experiences to solve those problems.

Multidisciplinary students considering design should consider two places to study to get the most from their design studies, both in Milan: the Nuova Academia Di Belle Arte, Milano (NABA), and Domus Academy.

What’s unique about them?  Well, they’re both in Milan, Italy, for one—the axis of the design world.  With design stars like Armani, Dolce and Gabbana, and Versace, to name a few, you’ll be in good company.

Both programs offer an interdisciplinary methodology, experts in the field, an integration between education and research, and a global reach. And both programs offer scholarship competitions for international students. An added bonus – if you earn a scholarship, you not only help fund your studies but you get to work with prestigious international companies that have partnereed with NABA and Domus Academy.

NABA specifically offers postgraduate work for designers looking to hone their skills in communication design, creative advertising, product design, interior design, and visual design.

Domus Academy focuses on creating postgraduate programs in business and fashion that maximize students’ real-world design experiences.  At the heart of Domus Academy’s program is the internship.  With alumni including Vogue editor-at-large Anna della Russo, and students who secure jobs at big companies like Nokia, Whirlpool, Gucci, LG, Microsoft, and Ford, Domus Academy will guide you towards success.

International STEM, business, and humanities students looking to change the visual and user-friendly scope of the world will not go wrong studying at NABA or Domus Academy in Milan.

Tips to Pick The Right Student Loan

1. Federal v. Private

First thing you need to do is decide whether you want federal loans, private loans, or a combination of both.

If you’re an undergraduate borrowing on your own, go for a federal loan.  Federal loans are generally safer than private loans—they’re less expensive and they have flexible repayment options.  You can also avoid defaulting on them, which will protect your credit score.

How do they work?  Put simply, the federal government pays the interest on federal subsidized loans, like the Stafford and Perkins loans.  The government may also pay the interest during certain periods of deferment. And, depending on your loan and career choice, you may qualify for a loan forgiveness program.

Why would you choose a private loan?  If your credit score is high—at least 740—and you have a co-signer, then some private loan options might work better for you than federal loans.

Compare fixed and variable rates—if you plan on paying off your loan longer than its term, some of those variable rates might be appealing to you.  The other thing to consider?  Loan fees.  Run a compare and contrast of your options.

Feeling unsure?  Contact your university’s loan office and ask to speak to a Financial Aid officer.

2. Loan Calculator

Use one.  These are especially helpful when you’re comparing and contrasting rates and fees for private and federal loans.

The Repayment Estimator on StudentLoans.gov is helpful because it tracks your monthly payment based on all the variables and types of loans involved.  Get a clear sense of what you’ll pay, how often, and for how long.

Make sure that your numbers are similar to the statement from your Financial Aid office.  If they’re not—ask.  Figure out why before you sign anything.

3. How much $$?

Decide how much you want to borrow—because that will be the amount you owe, plus interest, fees, and any other loan-related expenses.

Beware the variable interest rate, typically found in private loans.  Variable interest rates do as their name implies.  They change.  They increase over time.

Borrowing a lot of money from a private lender can work, even with a variable interest rate provided you know that you’ll have the resources to pay it back quickly—don’t let that interest rate vary too much.

4. Loan Repayment Plan

That loan calculator (see #2) will start the process of thinking about this.  For private loans, your repayment is often decided before you take the loan.  Be sure to read the fine print before you sign anything on a private loan.

Your goal?  Pay as little interest as possible.  What does this mean?  Pay down your loans quickly, so less interest accrues.

For federal loans, there are three main types of loan repayment plans:

a.     Income-based: pay 10-25 percent of your discretionary income over 25 years

b.     Pay-as-you-earn: pay 10 percent of your discretionary income over 20 years

c.     Income contingent: pay a combo of a and b

You can also prepay your federal student loans provided you have sufficient income, or access to funds.

Deferring is another option—but a potentially dangerous one.  You can apply to put off paying back your loans for reasons like illness, further education, major injuries, and unemployment.  Deferring doesn’t erase interest, though.  Deferring often increases your debt burden.  Better not to defer, unless you can’t avoid it.

Confused?  Don’t be.  While the loan process is daunting, go step-by-step, and make sound decisions.  Ask questions when you have them.  If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.  If the people you ask don’t give you clear answers, find someone else to work with.  It’s your money—and your future.

Remember: don’t sign any paperwork unless you feel confident that you know what you’re getting into.  Debt doesn’t go away on its own.  It’s yours.  Know what you’re buying—and how you’re buying it.  You’ll thank yourself later.