Sustainability is more than just a list of prescribed practices or operational changes at Puget Sound. It is a way of critically thinking about our role in the world. As such, sustainability provides a learning context for the highest educational goals in the mission of the university: critical analysis, active inquiry, a rich knowledge of self, a sense of place and service, and interdisciplinary understanding. The study of sustainability examines the interactions between human values and behaviors with environmental limits. Such study makes visible, the all too often invisible, present and future consequences of these interactions. The idea of sustainability complements and enriches the biggest ideas and avenues of inquiry of nearly all academic disciplines.
Puget Sound faculty members have been working to integrate sustainability into the curriculum broadly, across diverse disciplines. A summer workshop in 2007, generously supported by the Russell Family Foundation, brought together twenty faculty members from ten different academic disciplines. Each disciplinary team matched big ideas in its discipline to sustainability, and generated classroom applications designed to enhance critical understanding of sustainability across campus. The initial work on this project is available by discipline in the column to the left.
We are also working closely with the Curriculum for the Bioregion initiative sponsored by the Washington Center at the Evergreen State College to devise common goals and approaches in higher education for the promotion of environmental literacy and sustainability in the curriculum.
In July 2008, the Washington Center for Improving the Quality of Undergraduate Education and the university's Sound Policy Institute co-hosted a "Sustainability Across the Curriculum Institute" for teams of college teachers. This institute is a major component of the Curriculum for the Bioregion Initiative, whose goal is to better prepare undergraduates and educators to live in a world where the complex issues of environmental quality, environmental justice, and sustainability are paramount.
Assistant Professor Dan Sherman requires group projects in one of his Environmental Policy and Decision Making classes. For one group, this meant working on a community partnership with local independent groups who support green spaces in the city that are no longer supported by Metro Parks. One of the outcomes of this project was the development of a Tacoma Open Spaces Web site that these groups can use to connect, share resources, and make their efforts more efficient.
Former Associate Professor Karin Sable went to great "depths" to incorporate real world sustainability lessons into her Environmental Policy and Decision Making class--they went "dumpster diving!" Sable used a waste audit as a class lesson, analyzing what types of trash we're throwing away, and how much could be recycled or composted. The university does its own waste audits from time to time, such as for the Live Green Challenge.
In an effort to share some of the sustainability research and work that students in the Environmental Policy and Decision Making minor have done, a poster session is held at the end of each term.
Wondering what courses Puget Sound offers that relate to sustainability? In 2010, the Sustainability Education Framework was used to evaluate the syllabi and faculty research at the University of Puget Sound according to the Sustainability Tracking, Assessment, and Rating System (STARS). The framework was developed by the Curriculum Working Group of the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE), and was used to assist in identifying the key components of sustainability. Follow the link below to read more about this initiative and view the listings of Puget Sound courses with notations about which of the seven principles of sustainability each course includes.