Faculty Committee Launches Unique Sustainability Course

Posted on February 15, 2012

This semester the University Academic Sustainability Committee (UASC) has inaugurated the University’s first multidisciplinary undergraduate course in sustainability.

The three-credit class, Imagining a Sustainable World, was offered to students in the Honors College and, according to Dr. Stan Kabala, a UASC member, launching the course is the most ambitious effort of the UASC to date. Formed in 2009, the UASC works to develop University-wide commitment to sustainability in the curriculum, to support the research initiatives of students and faculty, and to sponsor events related to sustainability.

Along with student teamwork, team-teaching will fuse ideas and issues related to the academic disciplines of environmental sciences, politics, sociology, economics, business, ethics and philosophy in order to prepare students to be informed and engaged decision makers on sustainability issues.

Engagement, critical thinking and a holistic understanding of sustainability problems and solutions are the learning goals, rather than technical knowledge.

“We wanted an engagement that was more than merely academic learning,” Kabala said. “The aim is to have an emotional engagement among the students with the material and the ways of thinking that can truly create a sustainable world.”

Kabala said that no technical or academic prerequisites were expected of the students who enrolled. “The course is structured so that no student should put his or her strength or interests aside to take the class,” Kabala said, “but in the class they learn to use their strengths in combination with others to solve problems.”

In addition the course was created and is now being taught—by a nine-member faculty team representing a wide range of academic disciplines—as a pro bono initiative. In other words, Kabala explained, all of the curriculum design and administrative work required to make the course a reality, as well as the time spent instructing students and evaluating assignments, is being donated by members of the UASC.

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