OSI: Moving Beyond Our Pilot

by Elise Amel, Faculty Director of OSI


Creating opportunities. That’s what we’re all about here in the Office of Sustainability Initiatives (OSI). Working, living, and developing in a manner consistent with the long-term sustainability of human and non-human species is a foundational component of the common good. As a crucial element of the University’s mission, we believe that sustainability is central to our work as members of the St. Thomas community. Thus, the goal of the (OSI) is to facilitate a deeply embedded culture of sustainability across the university that directs our students’ critical thinking, wise action, and skillful work toward a life of sustainability leadership. Albeit a lofty goal, we’ve made good progress toward it this year!

We want to acknowledge with gratitude the support of Camille George, who believed in OSI from the get-go, and the vote of confidence from St. Thomas that transformed OSI from a pilot program to a long-term, integral feature of campus. This has allowed us not only to continue collaborating with the many enthusiastic students, faculty, and staff across campus but also to launch a variety of supportive curricular structures, and has afforded us the opportunity to dream big about the future.

OSI, housed in Academic Affairs, creates university-wide opportunities for integration of sustainability across disciplines, with an emphasis on experiential learning, and serves as an incubator for new sustainability-related curricular programs and structural ideas. The OSI currently houses our flagship initiative, the Sustainable Communities Partnership (SCP).  We also administer the annual Curricular Innovation in Sustainability Award, and this year, we are pleased to offer annual curriculum grants to faculty across the university to integrate sustainability into their courses.  Watch out for calls for these applications later this semester! Since its inception, OSI has collaborated on the design and implementation of the Sustainability Living-Learning Community and the Sustainability Scholars Grants programs. We also serve as a clearinghouse for sustainability-related news, events, and opportunities (e.g., speakers, job fairs, sustainability-related VISION trips and study abroad).

As many of you already know, in Fall 2015 OSI developed SUST course designations, which identify courses across the university (over 100 to date!) that include a substantive sustainability component. SUST designations have proven popular with students and faculty advisors, and serve the newly re-designed Environmental Studies major and Sustainability minor.  Apply to designate your course here!

Our gratitude goes out to the faculty, administration, staff, and students who have engaged with OSI and its initiatives!

Keep up to date on the latest news from our office through our website, Facebook, and Twitter. And please contact us to let us know about your vision for, efforts toward, and news about sustainability across the curriculum. We’d gladly treat you to coffee to hear all about it!