Tuesday (10/28) was the last full day of the 2014 AASHE annual conference. Wednesday is a day of guided tours or a chance to check-out Portland.
One of the common threads I’ve been hearing throughout the conference is that the operations/facilities departments at schools have found it pretty easy to make the business case for sustainability. From reductions in energy use to improvements in indoor air quality, worker satisfaction, and general operation efficiency improvements, operations has found that going green is a great way to go. Getting past the physical basics, students are expressing interest in how sustainability ideas can help make them more employable and enhance their ability to develop a career with deeper meaning. In other words, to create satisfying work with positive impact, not just have a job.
Details for talks of special interest
Design Thinking & Sustainability Problem Solving: Re-conceptualizing the First Year Curriculum
Key behavioral outcomes for Education for Sustainability are: an ability use a sustainability lens to identify and solve complex human-centered problems, and empowering students to thrive in a rapidly changing and uncertain world. Wesleyan College, a 4-year college for women in Macon, GA has undertaken a few bold steps towards achieving those goals and their ACUPCC commitment, and they have articulated their vision of sustainability literacy and integrated these goals within the college’s strategic plan. Part of this vision was to develop a first-year seminar curriculum to increase sustainability literacy and develop real-world sustainability problems solving skills. The course contained seven sections, each taught by a professor from six different disciplines. The sections were thematically joined via a single sustainability issue as an organizing theme — food, for example. Each section utilized design thinking as a process to identify and solve real-world, human-centered sustainability challenges found on campus.
Engaging Faculty in Sustainability
To achieve a truly sustainable campus, expertise from all corners of campus needs to be brought together, while providing learning opportunities for students. Southern Illinois University Edwardsville (SIUE) and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UI) have established faculty fellowships to further sustainability on their respective campuses by bringing together faculty and facilities personnel. Fellows work across academic disciplines to increase awareness of sustainability among the faculty. Sustainability stakeholders on SIUE’s campus recognized another key problem: how can an institution provide a sustainable education if faculty aren’t viewed (and don’t view themselves) as change agents for sustainability?
Plenary Session: Promising Practices for Transformative Sustainability Education
What is a student’s experience of sustainability on campus, or how, through the curriculum offered, can a student’s, competency, agency and resiliency increase as the problems of our times are addressed? Real change requires innovation and an education that goes beyond mere knowledge acquisition. Students need not only new knowledge, but new skills and ways of viewing the world to be able to effectively respond to the complex and interconnected problems in our rapidly changing world. The guided discussions focus on three big ideas or tensions in sustainability: 1) the visible vs. the invisible, 2) technical problems vs. adaptive challenges and 3) personal application vs. professional application.
Working Differently Together
By yours truly…”Working Differently Together” examines the differences, similarities and advantages found in proven as well as up-and-coming Systems Thinking Methodologies as tools for creative thinking and problem solving. Too many institutions today, both in Higher Education and Industry, are still picking and choosing aspects of sustainability they feel comfortable with and completely ignoring key elements that present challenges. The result is a market flooded with greenwashed products, and curriculum that provides only part of the picture. What are people missing?
One of the interesting take away messages from my own session, as well as listening to people in other sessions, was the idea of breaking down silos, a topic Annie Leonard brought up in her keynote address. Bringing different fields together allows all to learn how each are approaching sustainability as well as help find opportunities found in the overlaps.
This last idea is one the Sustainable Design program at MCAD has put into action from the start. Sustainability doesn’t happen in a vacuum, or in neat and tidy boxes; it’s a free-range affair that needs wide open minds to flourish.
This is the final installment of Wendy Jedlicka’s (MASD faculty) notes from the AASHE Conference. Image courtesy of Flickr CC NOAA’s National Ocean Services Photostream