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Profile: Professors' Approach to Sustainability
Posted on Friday, Nov. 5, 2010
The challenge of adapting sustainability into the curricula is certainly not the same for every faculty member. Faculty in different colleges and departments face unique challenges when folding sustainability into everyday course work. Some struggle more with convincing colleagues of the importance of sustainability, while others struggle to find enough time to teach all that is relevant. This profile highlights three faculty members from different colleges, showcasing their approaches to integrating sustainability across the curriculum.
Leavey School of Business: Stephen Smith
Teaching in the Leavey School of Business, many of Smith's lessons focus on the benefit/cost analysis of sustainability. "To do benefit/cost analysis correctly, you really need to understand the underlying scientific facts related to whatever actions are being considered," Smith explained. "I have learned a lot about climate change, energy technologies and the health effects of pollution, in addition to sustainable business practices and environmental economics." In his learning process, Smith explained that he changed his mind on certain issues pertaining to sustainability.
In business, where the bottom line is what matters, not necessarily sustainability, Smith has seen mixed reactions from colleagues. "Some have strongly supported it and were very helpful with providing new material that I could use. Others have been skeptical," he said. Smith has "seen a number of colleagues change their minds about certain sustainability issues as they learned more facts."
School of Engineering: Tim Healy
Fortunately for Healy, the Engineering Department was very open to creating more sustainability-focused classes. Engineering 060, a Core class called Sustainable Electric Energy, can be taken by any student in response to the growing focus on sustainability in engineering as a field. “Sustainability,” Healy says, “is going to be everywhere [and] everybody is a piece of the problem.” It is a business, economic, legal, and sociological problem. Now there is a Certificate in Renewable Energy at SCU in Engineering, and a newly-approved Master of Science in Sustainable Energy.
College of Arts & Sciences: Chad Raphael
"I want students to draw on what they've learned about how others have communicated about the environment to engage with the public themselves. Some create Facebook groups to persuade their friends and family to take action on an environmental issue. Others create videos, web materials, or Powerpoint presentations for advocacy organizations. Last year, most of the groups conducted research and created communication examples for SCU's Office of Sustainability," Raphael explained.
Over the years, Raphael has witnessed student interest in sustainability and the environment grow. "Especially among those who are least familiar with environmental issues," he added.
A hot sustainability topic in his classroom is environmetal health. In his Technology and Communication class (Comm 12), students contribute to a Wikipedia entry and many choose to focus on e-waste and the health impacts of electronics.
"All students need the opportunities to learn about sustainabilty issues," Raphael said. He hopes to see the integration of sustainability across the curriculum grow in the coming years. "Our job is to prepare all students to be effective professionals and citizens who can recognize and address the major issues that are likely to face them in their lifetimes. Most of those issues will be related to sustainability in some way," Raphael added.
Interviews by Molly Kagel, '11 and Emily Orbanek, '11, Sustainability Interns.