Integrating Sustainability into the Boston College Curriculum
The goal of our Faculty Workshop: Integrating Sustainability in the BC Curriculum is to create a learning environment that provides graduates from all disciplines with the foundation and tools necessary to be ethical, responsible citizens capable of developing and thriving in a sustainable global society. Learn about courses your colleagues have infused with sustainability themes by participating in our workshops.
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These readings frame some of our Workshop discussions:
- "Reflection, Change, Identity, and Place" by Peggy F. Barlett
- "Design, Ecology, Ethics and the Making of Things" by William McDonough
- "Developing Ecological Consciousness: Path to a Sustainable World" by Christopher Uhl
“Colleges and Universities may have only 3 percent of the carbon footprint, but they have 100% of the student footprint”
- Michael Crow (President, Arizona State University)
We have a unique responsibility as faculty in higher education to provide the knowledge and educated citizenry that will lead to a thriving civil society. A comprehensive approach for increasing the sustainability–themed content each graduate receives is modification of existing courses, or creation of new courses, by faculty in all disciplines. The political difficulties presented with top-down legislation of course content are circumvented when faculty are instead helped to recognize the importance of conveying sustainability themes to their students. In addition, experiences that broaden faculty perspective, encourage reflection and provide content increase the likelihood that a faculty member will add sustainability content to their course.
Our workshop begins with dinner the night before so faculty can relax and start the conversation. During the following full-day workshop, faculty explore how they can meaningfully integrate sustainability themes into their classrooms, through brief presentations by invited resource experts, opportunities for brainstorming and sharing ideas, projects and impressions, an activity around systems thinking and a facilitated discussion about what sustainability means within the context of BC as a Jesuit institution.
Participation by faculty from across the university is a critical component of the workshop, allowing faculty to extend pedagogical and research interests across disciplines and create new networks with fellow colleagues. An opportunity to mingle with previous workshop attendees during a late afternoon cocktail reception at the close of the workshop increases the development of interdisciplinary connections. Click here to see the January 2010 workshop agenda.
Creating a Sustainability-Themed Curriculum
Faculty from all disciplines have successfully integrated sustainability themes into their courses by participating in this type of workshop. See the faculty workshop inspired curriculum that resulted from our past workshops. Our workshop is modeled on a very successful curriculum development workshop developed at Northern Arizona University and Emory University and subsequently adapted by dozens of schools. For more examples of curriculum with integrated sustainability themes, see the results of Emory’s workshops.
Results from the January 2010 Faculty Workshop at Boston College
The first Faculty Workshop was held at Boston College in January 2010. Click here to see the agenda from the workshop. As shown by the following outcomes, the workshop exceeded our goals:
The 20 workshop attendees included junior, mid-career and senior faculty from Law, CSOM, Theology, History, English (including freshman writing seminar), Philosophy, Economics, Communications, Biology, Romance Languages, the International Studies Program and the School of Nursing.
Increased sustainability content in our curriculum:
Initial analysis of the curriculum impacted by this workshop reveals that 3 new sustainability–themed courses were planned, 5 pre-existing courses integrated sustainability content for the first time, and sustainability-themed content increased in 13 pre-existing courses. Given the increased interdisciplinary connections made during the workshop, the sustainability-themed course content developed by this cohort will likely increase over time. See the inspired Faculty Workshop Courses.
With momentum generated from the workshop, about 12 faculty developed a separate proposal to the ILA to plan a University-wide Global Sustainability minor.