Teaching & Learning

Putting Planetary Thinking in the Curriculum

A group met recently to discuss how carbon neutrality and sustainability can be integrated into classroom curriculum at USU.

For the first time at Utah State University, a diverse group of faculty, representing a wide range of departments, came together to discuss how carbon neutrality and sustainability can be integrated into classroom curriculum at USU.

Faculty representing theater, geology, economics, history and computer science recently converged for a day-long workshop called “Destinations: Planetary Thinking in the Curriculum.” The workshop is a result of the American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment, signed by President Stan Albrecht in 2007 to acknowledge higher education’s role in sustainability and calls for USU to be carbon neutral by 2050.

According to event organizers, the workshop set out to heed USU’s sustainability policy, which says the university should “prepare students, faculty and staff to proactively contribute to a high quality of life for present and future generations.”

Sheryl Aguilar, senior dietitian, said the workshop “helped me understand how to further incorporate sustainability into my courses to help students understand how these concepts can be applied in health care, food service systems and community nutrition.”

Rebecca McFaul, assistant professor of music and one of the event planners, said she hoped participants could take the information presented and find a way to implement them into their own classrooms.

“It was a very full and stimulating day of sharing fantastic ideas and discussions that will valuably resonate beyond the walls of the workshop’s room,” McFaul said.

The idea to infuse sustainability into USU’s curriculum was brought back to the university after several faculty members attended a workshop at Emory University in January 2016.

After five months and several collaborations, USU faculty members and Sustainability Council Members pulled their resources and ideas and hosted 17 faculty members and two doctorate students in the workshop which was supported by the Office of Academic and Instructional Services, deans and the Provost’s Office.

Event organizers included Carlos Licon, assistant professor of landscape architecture and environmental planning; Nicholas Flann, associate professor of computer science; Rebecca McFaul, assistant professor of music; Ryan Dupont, professor of civil and environmental engineering; and Alexi Lamm, USU sustainability coordinator.

Guest speakers included Rob Davies, Utah Climate Center physicist and educator; USU professors Ed Stafford and Kit Mohr; and a panel of students. A trip to USU’s industrial composter and a performance of a musical piece about the water cycle by the Fry Street Quartet were chosen to demonstrate the breadth of sustainability concepts — from campus operations to fine arts.

Contact: Alexi Lamm, USU sustainability coordinator, 435-797-9299, Alexi.lamm@usu.edu

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