Message from the OSI Director

by Dr. Elise Amel

The 2015-2016 academic year has been an exciting time as we’ve launched a variety of innovative programs through the new Office of Sustainability Initiatives (OSI)!  OSI provides support for curriculum-based activities and initiatives that address the interconnections between human and environmental well-being.

OSI is a great resource for pursuing the St. Thomas mission of advancing the Common Good and our many strategic priorities and themes. This year, OSI built the Sustainable Communities Partnership and SUST course designations; collaborated with Student Affairs to develop and support the Sustainability Living-Learning Community; designed and facilitated St. Thomas’ sponsorship of the 2015 AASHE conference and associated campus sustainability tour; provided curriculum-related Earth Week activities; and presented the annual Curricular Innovation in Sustainability Award. 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). Our gratitude goes out to the faculty, administration, staff, and students who have supported the development of our new office!

Launching the Sustainable Communities Partnership.  Last fall, we began by connecting with the Cities of Delano and Elk River and the Mississippi Watershed Management Organization and their collaborators, including Master Water Stewards.  These partners each identified a list of high priority sustainability projects that they wanted to work on with us. Then we worked with a variety of faculty across the university to integrate these projects within pre-existing spring and summer courses. We’ve gotten off to a great start with 150 students guided by 13 faculty in 12 courses across 10 disciplines, tackling 14 projects in collaboration with our 3 partners. Read more from SCP Program Manager, Dr. Maria Dahmus.

New SUST designation!  If you are one of the many St. Thomas faculty whose courses contain a significant sustainability component, I want to draw your attention to the new SUST course designations. To date, over 50 courses from all across the university have obtained the SUST designation. SUST courses are listed in ClassFinder (with the ‘Sustainability Initiative’ attribute) and on our website so that students and academic advisors can browse for general education requirements, major and minor courses, as well as electives that address sustainability. This also provides us with important assessment information. We know that faculty across campus are incorporating sustainability into their work, whether it is through readings, assignments, units, and projects, or sustainability as the overarching theme of the course, and we encourage all to apply for the SUST designation!

We’re looking forward to our 1st birthday and an exciting 2016-2017 academic year! Keep up to date on the latest news from our office through Facebook and Twitter. And please contact us to join our efforts. We’d gladly treat you to coffee and conversation about your ideas for engaging sustainability across the curriculum!