Monday, October 4, 2010

Sustainability Curriculum and Program Development

The Vincentian Mission is the foundation of DePaul University. This backbone is exactly the reason why DePaul is in a position to lead higher education institutions toward a globally sustainable futurel. However, DePaul is still weak in integrating sustainable courses and programs under the 'sustainable framework' flag.

Cortese (2003) advocates that “higher education institutions bear a profound, moral responsibility to increase the awareness, knowledge, skills, and values needed to create a just and sustainable future.” He continues that “the context of learning with change to make human/environment interdependence, values, and ethics a seamless and central part of teaching of all the disciplines, rather than isolated as a special course or module in programs for specialists. Environment specialists are necessary but not sufficient. Understanding how to create a just and sustainable society must be a fundamental principle in all education.”

The White Paper on Sustainability at DePaul University recommends the following strategy on curriculum.
1. Promote sustainability across the curriculum, in the same way we have included ethics across the curriculum. In fact, we see sustainability as an important development in our ethics across the curriculum program;
2. Educate students to be leaders in the growth of the rapidly emerging green economy;
3. Develop an interdisciplinary minor in environmental and sustainability studies;
4. Develop an integrative sustainable management specialization in the MBA program;
5. Create a master’s program in sustainable development.

As to point 1, I would like to propose to include ‘sustainability’ as a core course for both undergraduate and graduate students aiming to strengthen students’ integral human development. ‘Sustainability’ can be an independent 2-credit course or a combined 4-credit course with ‘ethics’.

The second proposal relating to curriculum is to make study abroad program a 6-credit course with 5-times classes in Chicago and a week to 10 days classes abroad. In this way, students will be well prepared to make the most out of studying abroad in addition to extra credits.

The third proposal is to integrate a 'guide to sustainability at DePaul’ and ‘Vincentian mission’ into new-student orientation. Another component I would like to propose is to include ‘tours of sustainability-related resources on campus’ in new-student orientation aiming at raising awareness on sustainability at DePaul from Day One. To cover these added components, if possible, I would like to suggest that the duration of new-student orientation for undergraduates is two to three days and that for graduate students, two nights. According to The College Sustainability Report Card 2010, more than two in three schools have introduced sustainability into student orientation. An example is Pacific Lutheran University which conducts 'campus green tour' for new students on Day 2.

The fourth proposal relates to point 2 which is to increase sustainability internship opportunities, paid and unpaid, for students on campus. Two-thirds of the schools offer paid sustainability opportunities for students. Sixty-eight percent of the schools offer paid positions to students for work on sustainability activities within the facilities department, sustainability office, or other relevant campus office, according to The College Sustainability Report Card 2010.

If enacted, the four proposals stated above would enable students as well as faculty and staff to take the educational experiences from a theoretical to a practical level.

The Stephens et al. (2008) advocate that higher education institutions have the potential as a change agent in accelerating society’s transition toward sustainability within a global context. this relates to points 2, 3, 4, and 5 on curriculum. A good example is Arizona State University (ASU). ASU established Global Institute of Sustainability with the mission to: identify the grand challenges of sustainability, advance knowledge for applied practical solutions, create new tools for improved decision-making, prioritize university-wide efforts toward sustainable practices, and build global research partnerships. In this line, ASU started the School of Sustainability in 2007 which offers 18-credit hour program as an undergraduate minor in sustainability that can complement a student’s major in another academic discipline. The aim is to bring together multiple disciplines and leaders to create and share knowledge, train a new generation of scholars and practitioners, and develop practical solutions to some of the most pressing environmental, economic, and social challenges of sustainability, especially as they relate to urban areas. Please watch ASU’s orientation video to learn students’ comments on the School of Sustainability.
There are many universities which offer inter- and trans-disciplinary approach to sustainability. Examples include:
*Clark University, with inter- and trans- disciplinary course in its Department of International Development, Community, and Environment;
*The University of Notre Dame, with sustainability-related courses across all of its six colleges and schools;
*Loyola University Chicago, with the Center for Urban Environmental Research and Policy and ‘step courses’; and
*Santa Clara University, with clusters of courses with a common theme, promoting integrative and intentional learning, and with sustainability pathway course.

While DePaul does not present 'sustainable course framework' to students, it offers sustainable courses in the School of Public Service, the School of New Oearning, the College of Commerce, the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, and the Continuing and Professional Education. Starting inter- and trans-disciplinary courses on sustainability or establishing a School of Sustainability would require consensus among faculty, staff and students and may be difficult to materialize in a short-time frame but it must be done in the near future. To take one step forward, I believe that it is feasible to establish a 4-credit ‘ethics & sustainability’ course, change the study abroad program to 6-credit course, and integrate ‘guide to sustainability at DePaul’, ‘Vincentian mission’ and ‘tours of sustainability-related resources on campus’ in new student orientation. Increasing the number of paid sustainability opportunities on campus for students is also a possible change DePaul can bring to students.

Posted by Toyoko Sakamaki

Stephens, Jennie C., Maria E. Hernandez, Mikael Roman, Amanda C. Graham, Roland W. Scholz. 2008. Higher education as a change agent for sustainability in different cultures and contexts. International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education. Vol. 9, no. 3: 317-338

Kelley, Scott. 2009. What must be done? DePaul as Sustainable Learning Community.

1 comment:

  1. Educate students to be leaders in the growth of the rapidly emerging green economy.Create a master’s program in sustainable development.International curriculum