Faculty workshop on sustainability generates new coursework ideas

Author: Jessica Baron

Notre Dame faculty were both teachers and learners in the recent “Sustainability Across the Curriculum” Workshop organized by Rachel Novick, Director of the Sustainability Minor, and colleagues with the Campus Coalition on Research and Education for Sustainability (CREST). More than 20 faculty and graduate students from a dozen disciplines and institutes joined in panel discussions, interactive sessions with local sustainability experts, and area field trips over the course of the two-day workshop held in the Greenhouse, a state of the art classroom located in Leighton Hall at Innovation Park.

Sustainability across the cirriculum

Jessica Hellmann, ND biologist and Reilly Center fellow, led off the first day with a talk that introduced basic principles of sustainability from a planetary perspective. More talks and group discussions followed incorporating ideas from economics and the humanities, as well as leadership and community engagement programs that embrace sustainability concepts. Real world examples of sustainability in practice included a visit to the ND power plant, a campus tour that highlighted outdoor classroom opportunities, as well as field trips to the Notre Dame Linked Experimental Ecosystem Facility at St. Patrick’s Park and an environmental history tour of Potato Creek State Park.

“What made the workshop so successful was the diversity of perspectives that the participating faculty brought to the discussions,” said Novick. “It’s so rare to have scholars of English Literature, Political Science, Civil Engineering, Biology, Romance Languages, and History learning from each other about a topic of common interest and concern. The great thing about sustainability is that every discipline has something important to contribute to how we approach the complex global challenges we face as a society.”

A follow-up breakfast in August will bring together workshop participants once more to share and receive feedback on new and revised coursework syllabi.

The Reilly Center was one of several sponsoring entities of the workshop. Reilly Fellow participants include Jon Coleman (History), Jessica Hellmann (Biology), Ken Sayre (Philosophy), and John Sitter (English Literature).