Archive:

Case Studies in Sustainable Social Work: MSW Students Explore Principles in Practice

By Kevin Jones, Lindsay Merritt, Ashley Brown, Shelby Davidson, Diana Nulliner, Jennine Smart, Lisa Walden and Nick Winges-Yanez

In 1999, the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) in the United States published a policy statement on the environment that acknowledged the social work profession’s apparent “lack of interest” in environmental issues, and called for a new urgency among social workers to address the challenges of pollution, environmental contamination, and resource depletion. Despite this call for urgency and the increasing certainty of widespread social and environmental crises due to climate change, the integration of ecological concepts into mainstream social work education and practice has been slow and sporadic. Only recently have some social workers begun to openly discuss a re-centering of social work within a sustainability paradigm, emphasizing the importance of interconnectedness among humans and the natural world, interdisciplinary alliances and partnerships, and holistic justice-focused practice. This paper explores the potential for a case study assignment in a Master of Social Work (MSW) program to help make explicit connections between sustainability concepts introduced in the classroom and the practical application of these concepts in a wide range of social work practice settings. Three sample case studies from students are presented, and advantages and challenges of this pedagogical approach are discussed.

Continue Reading
BonneyDuram Article Thumb

Applying AASHE STARS to Examine Geography’s “Sense of Place” in Sustainability Education

By Makayla J. Bonney and Leslie Duram

Abstract: Geography supports place-based inquiry for the learner, applying the old environmental adage of “think globally, act locally” to environmental problem solving. Many within and outside of the discipline of geography see it as a highly appropriate home for sustainability studies. Yet despite a history of human-environment education, place-based relevancy, and support from professional research or education organizations, studies show that geography does not always take a lead role in sustainability education. In the following, we revisit the contested histories of geography and sustainability education and show support for geography-led sustainability curriculum. The scope of this research is universities which have self-identified as leaders in campus sustainability, using the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE) Sustainability Tracking, Assessment, and Rating System (STARS) participation as an indicator. To best understand the current relationship of geography and sustainability studies in higher education, this study examines the role of geography in offering “Sustainability Focused” courses as reported by AASHE STARS institutions with geography programs. The results show that although geography departments are highly utilized when present at an institution, there is still much room for improvement both within geography departments and campus-wide. We then discuss the implication of these findings, both for the discipline of geography and for students of sustainability.

Continue Reading
MorganIconPicture

Open Spaces of Democracy: Connecting Students, Wilderness, and Community through Experiential Learning

By Eric Morgan

Chronicling a semester-long civic engagement project, this essay explores the efforts of a senior seminar course to collaborate with a local wilderness preservation organization. The essay reflects on the role of students in their communities, their connections to wilderness, and the challenges and rewards of civic engagement.

Continue Reading
AikensF1

How We Came to Inhabit These Spaces: Reflections on the Role of Place in Our Individual and Collective Journeys as Emerging Sustainability Scholars

By Kathleen Aikens, Naomi Maina, Ana-Maria Bogdan and Hardi Shahadu

This paper provides a descriptive analysis of the experience of four doctoral students engaged in a collective project of place exploration at a midsize Canadian university. Under the methodological tradition of self-study, we contextualize concepts of place attachment and decolonization in order to investigate what it means to be interdisciplinary scholars of sustainability. We use storytelling and mobile discussion methods, alongside visual and mapping methods to disentangle our experiences and analyses of place, mobility, land, and scholarship. This reflective piece demonstrates that collaborative forms of scholarship such as this require deliberate moves toward community creation and place attachment within institutions of higher education. Through a process of collaborative investigation and writing, we have created spaces of caring academic scholarship rather than engaging in competitive and hierarchical university culture.

Continue Reading
Blockstein ARticle thumbnail

Energy Education: Easy, Difficult, or Both?

By David E. Blockstein, Catherine H. Middlecamp and John H. Perkins

Energy services undergird all modern, industrial societies, yet economies based on fossil fuels are not sustainable. Insecurity of supply, particularly of oil, has sparked major geopolitical tensions and warfare. Pollution from use of fossil fuels and other energy sources has damaged local, regional, and global health. Greenhouse gases from fossil fuels have triggered concerns about the earth’s climate. Educational institutions are responding only slowly to these existential threats. This paper addresses the challenges facing students, faculty, and administrators as institutions move from simply providing technical education on the respective components of the energy industries to a more comprehensive program that also addresses the environmental, political, economic, cultural, and ethical contexts of energy literacy. Students at most institutions lack courses and programs outside of engineering and physical science. Only 8 percent of 1638 institutions have systematic, broad-based energy studies. The U.S. Department of Energy has supported initial efforts to develop this field. Development includes helping students move from energy studies to employment. Nevertheless, student interest is high. Faculty teaching sustainable energy have generally self-taught, and faculty employment opportunities in energy studies seldom exist. A faulty member delivering energy studies generally lacks a community of supporting peers. Those in this interdisciplinary field may fear the effort will not be rewarded by the institution. Nevertheless the intellectual rewards from developing energy studies are significant and motivating. Administrators face questions of balancing competing claims for institutional resources and face criticism from internal and external constituencies. In addition, they must guide the institution to promoting, enabling, and rewarding interdisciplinary work. Development of energy studies, however, positions the institution for better internal operations and for meeting critical societal needs. We conclude that energy education is both easy and hard, but it can and must be done.

Continue Reading
DanCastonArticleTumbnail

Curriculum Designing with Sustainability in Mind: Reflections on a Process

By Dan Caston

There are unique challenges in sustainability education that many in administrative and decision-making positions may not fully understand. While there is a general movement toward interdisciplinary curriculum design in colleges and universities, what may truly be needed to effectively address sustainability issues is trans-disciplinary curriculum design. Using my experience in creating the Stewardship Toward Sustainability certificate program at Ferrum College as a launch point, I discuss solutions to overcoming conceptual and political barriers in this process.

Continue Reading
Hilary Nixon article thumbnail

Building Community Through Engaged Students: CommUniverCity and Experiential, Service-Based Education

By Hilary Nixon and Dayana Salazar

Experiential learning, and more specifically, service learning (SL) can serve as an ideal mechanism to support sustainability education. In particular, because of its emphasis on collaboration between students, faculty, and the community partner(s) and on social change and civic engagement, SL provides an excellent vehicle to address issues related to social justice. In this article, we document a unique SL partnership at San José State University—CommUniverCity. CommUniverCity’s primary mission is to build social capital and empower residents in an underserved community near the university. Each year, students, faculty and residents invest more than 21,000 hours in service to the community. Because of its unique mission, sustainability-related projects lie at the heart of what CommUniverCity does. We analyze student surveys from more than 30 classes engaged in SL projects during 2012 across a wide range of disciplines. All projects address at least one, and often multiple “Es” of sustainability. Our findings indicate that students find value in the SL experience, not only in terms of better understanding of the course subject matter, but also in terms of their understanding of “community” and the larger issue of social justice and equity.

Continue Reading
MarkSeisARticleThumbnail

Review of Occupy education: living and learning sustainability by Tina Lynn Evans

By Mark Seis

Mark Seis review of Tina Evans book helps us see the power of Evans’ approach to using critical social theory as a vehicle for dissecting out how higher education might really work towards true sustainability. Evans’ book takes on a giant task and delivers a strong call for deeply analyzing the capitalist and materialist forces that dominate higher education so that a truly transformative sustainable education process can be constructed.

Continue Reading
AntonioMaragakisArticlerThumbnail

Higher Education: Features, Trends and Needs in Relation to Sustainability

By Antonios Maragakis and Andy van den Dobbelsteen

PDF: Maragakis and van den Dobbelsteen Winter 2013 Abstract:  The progress of sustainability within higher education has steadily increased in focus over the last decade and has increasingly become a topic of academic research.  With various scholars, journals and conferences exclusively dealing with the subject, a wealth of literature has been produced on best practices, […]

Continue Reading
AnouchkaArticleThumbnail

Planting the Seed of Sustainability: Languages and Cultures Fertilize an Organic Garden at Miami Dade College

By Anouchka Rachelson

In this fascinating case study from Miami Dade College, Anouchka provides us with a detailed and subtle look at the effects of a simple school garden on her students. The garden’s potential to build a sense of community and place as well as a new environmental ethic is developed through vivid vignettes woven throughout the description of how Anouchka and her colleagues launched the project. The garden project described is a powerful example of complex, interdisciplinary teaching that also takes advantage of the college’s physical campus to foster experiential learning and cultural exchange. Whether or not readers are involved in similar projects, this story is important for its illustration of the interconnectivity and endless learning possible in any discipline from a connection to the living earth.

Continue Reading
YukikoARticleThumbnailGuamMap

Incorporating Sustainability into the Curriculum: The Case of Green Course Projects at a Pacific Island American University

By Yukiko Inoue

Graduate students enrolled in an education research course (many of the students were school teachers) that the author taught during the spring 2010 semester participated in this “green” course project. Those students who were not school teachers, who worked for private companies or government agencies, focused their projects on green communities, workplaces, or households. Students conducted their projects based on inquiry-based learning, and this sustainability study reported in the current paper itself derives from an inquiry-based approach. The results from this study demonstrated that daily curricular activities at universities and schools provide an important way to support environmentally responsible living. Implementing green course projects similar to the one described here is one of many ways in which university teachers can incorporate “sustainability” into their curricula.

Continue Reading
DSCN2408

Trash Talk: A case study of waste analysis at Pomona College

By Char Miller and Bowen Close

In this well-formulated case study, Miller and Close show us how student involvement and action through a group independent study course led to sophisticated analysis and real change in the handling of waste at Pomona College. They make a good case for student analysis to have equaled or better what experts might have done, with the added benefit of giving students an impactful, real-life experience with practical solutions to sustainability education problems.

Continue Reading
anthony_cortese article thumbnail2

Why All Colleges & Universities Should Join the American College & University Presidents’ Climate Commitment

By Anthony Cortese and Richard Cook

Anthony Cortese and Richard Cook’s clarion call for colleges to join the Presidents’ Climate Commitment lays out the stakes in no uncertain terms. They succinctly define what sustainability education really means in terms of every-day concrete changes for which every institution of higher learning should strive.

Continue Reading
TinaEvansVisionArticleThumbnail

What Sustainability Education Is to Me

By Tina Evans

In this convincing argument, Tina Evans makes the case for both social and ecological components to sustainability that each of us realize, individually and in community, in the context of our own “lifeway.” She also portrays, in concise terms, the transformational process that she incorporates into her own lifeway as a college professor.

Continue Reading