Integrating Sustainability Across the Curriculum

Maria Dahmus develops Academic Sustainability Initiatives for the College of Arts and Sciences.  She received her Ph.D. from the Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies at the University of Wisconsin and studied urban ecosystems as a postdoctoral research associate at the University of Minnesota.
Maria Dahmus develops Academic Sustainability Initiatives for the College of Arts and Sciences.
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By: Maria Dahmus, Ph.D. (College of Arts and Sciences)

What is Sustainability?
Ask ten people this question and you’ll likely get ten different answers.  Nevertheless, there are some common themes.  A widely cited definition of sustainability is the ability to “meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”               
(Our Common Future, World Commission on Environment and Development, 1987).
This definition, of course, raises controversial questions:  What are needs?  And how do we best
meet them?  This definition and its associated controversies also suggest a second common
theme: addressing sustainability requires the integration of environmental, social, economic, and ethical dimensions of resource use and quality of life.  

Sustainability is central to the mission of the University of St. Thomas.  First, UST seeks to “educate students to be morally responsible leaders who think critically, act wisely and work skillfully to advance the common good.”  Second, UST’s Strategic Priority, Environmental Stewardship and Sustainability, seeks to “integrate principles of environmental sustainability across the curriculum and in co-curricular activities.”

Sustainability does not conform to disciplinary lines; it crosses the natural sciences, social sciences, and humanities as well as law, education, business, social work, and engineering. Therefore, the integration of sustainability across disciplines is not only important to prepare students to advance the common good, but it is also full of possibilities for course content and pedagogy.  Integrating sustainability themes into courses can enrich teaching, student learning, and student engagement while fulfilling the mission of UST.

During J-term, the Faculty Development Center will offer a faculty workshop on integrating sustainability into UST courses. The workshop is open to all faculty. Click here to register. For questions or more information about the workshop contact Maria Dahmus.

 

Integrate Sustainability into Your Course:  Faculty Development Workshop 

Before the workshop: Select one of your courses to bring to the workshop.  In advance of the workshop, consider the central concepts and skills that students should take away from your course.
Jan 7, 2013 
(1pm-5pm)
We’ll examine two topics:  1) What is sustainability? and 2) How can sustainability themes enrich students’ learning of the central concepts and skills from your course? Faculty who have integrated sustainability into their courses will provide examples to inspire this discussion.  At the end of the day, you’ll have ideas about how sustainability relates to the driving questions and themes of your course.  
Jan 8, 2013 
(1pm-5pm)
  You’ll integrate sustainability themes into your course. You can do this in small ways by using sustainability themes in problem sets, discussions, or writing and research assignments, or in larger ways by using sustainability as a driving theme for course units or your entire course. We’ll also discuss how sustainability themes can enhance pedagogy and student engagement.  At the end of the day, you’ll have a course that integrates sustainability themes as well as ideas and resources to continue course development.
 Follow-up: In mid-spring, we’ll meet to discuss how spring courses or plans for future courses are going.
Workshop Leader: Maria Dahmus develops Academic Sustainability Initiatives for the College of Arts and Sciences to facilitate the integration of sustainability across the curriculum and co-curricular activities.  She received her Ph.D. from the Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies at the University of Wisconsin and studied urban ecosystems as a postdoctoral research associate at the University of Minnesota. 

This workshop will be especially useful for CAS faculty who would like to apply for a CAS Environmental Sustainability curriculum grant or the Curricular Innovation in Sustainability award.  The curriculum grant supports course development to integrate sustainability themes into courses. The curriculum award recognizes innovation and excellence in integrating sustainability themes into courses. Calls for CAS grant and award applications will be announced in early Spring.


Did you know?

Faculty, staff, and students across UST have implemented a range of sustainability initiatives over the past several years. You may have noticed some of these around campus:  Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Gold Certification for the new Anderson Student Center, the UST Stewardship Garden, water bottle refilling stations (to reduce plastic water bottle waste), and much more. In 2008, Father Dease signed the American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment.  UST sponsors its own Campus Sustainability Fund grant competition for students, staff, and faculty to implement projects to help fulfill this commitment. The UST Sustainability Committee facilitates sustainability initiatives across campus. Visit UST’s Sustainability website to learn more.

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