Southeastern Faculty Build Capacity for Infusing Sustainability Across the Curriculum

On May 17-18, 2011, 25 faculty members from 16 campuses across the Southeast participated in the Sustainability and Curriculum for Campus Leaders “train the trainer” workshop, hosted by the Georgia Campus Sustainability Network, Agnes Scott College’s Office of Sustainability, the National Wildlife Federation’s Campus Ecology program and Emory University’s Dr. Peggy Barlett.  Participants came from campuses in Georgia, North Carolina, Florida and Alabama  that ranged from small liberal arts colleges, such as Warren Wilson College and Georgia Highlands College, to community colleges, like Georgia Perimeter College and Tallahassee Community College, to Historically Black Colleges and Universities, including Spelman College and Clark Atlanta University, to major land-grant universities, like Auburn University and the University of Georgia.

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Dr. Lissa Leege of Georgia Southern University poses a question to Dr. Barlett and other workshop participants.

Dr. Barlett has been hosting “train the trainer” workshops for faculty leaders who wish to develop curriculum change programs, with a focus on infusing sustainability into the courses and curricula offered on their campus, for the last six years.  She has worked with over 300 faculty leaders from more than 200 schools in nine different countries to teach them about creating their own version of the very successful Piedmont Project at Emory University, which annually brings Emory faculty members from many different disciplines together to share and develop strategies for infusing sustainability into their courses and curricula.

This workshop was specifically designed and promoted to engage faculty leaders from a variety of institutions throughout the Southeast, especially those who may not have had access to this type of professional development opportunity in the past, due to highly competitive application processes and a lack of financial resources or campus support for sustainability initiatives.  Over the course of the two day workshop, Dr. Barlett created a space for participants to learn not only about her successes and struggles with the Piedmont Project, but also to learn with and from each other when it comes to strategies for integrating sustainability into their campuses’ diverse course offerings and convening faculty summits to help accelerate this process across campus.

The workshop began with introductions to several concepts related to environmental, social and economic sustainability, including several definitions, teaching using the campus as a learning laboratory, the impacts of unsustainable growth on public health, nine ways to change a course, and more.  In some ways Day 1 was framed as an example of what a faculty summit might look like on a participant’s campus.  Day 1 ended with individual reflection and then a group reception in Agnes Scott College’s LEED certified Alumnae House.  Day 2 focused in on the Piedmont Project model itself, with an overview of the model including tips for success and several exercises aimed at developing learning outcomes and strategies for infusing sustainability across the curriculum campus-wide.

Feedback received from workshop participants was overwhelmingly positive.  Here is a sampling of the anonymous feedback we received:

“We do not have a sustainability program yet.  I feel that insights gained here will help me jump-start a program and perhaps avoid some potential pitfalls.  I’m grateful for the opportunity to have participated.”

“Initially I perceived my role as an educator looking for tools to improve my course.  Now I perceive my role as an agent of change.”

“I feel inspired and empowered to now spearhead a sustainability workshop at my college.”

We look forward to following up with everyone who attended in the years to come to see how this event helped them to catalyze a movement for sustainability across the curriculum on their campuses and how National Wildlife Federation’s Campus Ecology program can continue to support their work!