Penstemon Project 2007
August 3, 2007
Ninteen faculty attended a peer-led workshop in June aimed to integrate sustainability across the curriculum at Santa Clara University. Participants were introduced to local experts (within SCU and beyond) who shared their knowledge about sustainability, identified relevant resources, and provided suggestions for field trip options for their courses.
“The Penstemon Project is designed for faculty outside of the traditional environmentally-focused disciplines to find ways to incorporate sustainability into their curriculum – either as class content or in the way their class functions,” said Virginia Matzek, Director of Campus and Community Programs at the Environmental Studies Institute and one of five organizers of the project. “It could be as simple as having a field trip to a nature area in a writing class – or even simpler, carpooling to that field trip.”
Project leaders provided inspiration, background information, space for discussion, and a monetary incentive for participants to develop their new or revised syllabi. Beyond that, the participants were the experts. Amara Brook, Assistant Professor of Psychology commented, “I learned about many exciting ways in which people are incorporating sustainability into a wide variety of courses. These creative ideas will help me integrate environmental content into my general psychology course."
“The workshop helped me to encourage students to think more deliberately about how sociology can be used to better understand and address issues related to the environment and sustainability,” said Laura Nichols, Department Chair of Sociology, “especially in ways that will keep them thinking about and responding to these issues beyond graduation.”
A website dedicated to detailing the changes to curriculum that are occurring as a result of the Project is under development. Soon, others who have not been through the workshop can see what their peers are doing with their classes. “It might end up being kind of viral,” said Matzek. “I’m very excited about the possibilities.”
John Farnsworth, Co-Faculty Director of Cyphi, Lecturer in English and Environmental Studies, and director of next year’s Penstemon Project reflected on what he learned while organizing the first: “I realized how deep SCU’s commitment to sustainability runs: university administration was quick to provide funding and support, and faculty responded to our initial request for proposals with enthusiasm.”
A second Penstemon Workshop was held in 2009 for 20 more faculty members.