Over the past four years, Office of Sustainability programs have changed the educational experience for thousands of UMD students. When the University became a charter signatory of the American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment in 2007, it pledged to make sustainability a part of the curriculum so that all students will be prepared to address complex challenges that threaten human welfare now and in the future. Although there is still plenty of room for progress toward that goal, many students now learn about sustainability in the classroom during their first semester and throughout their years on campus, regardless of their majors.
Since 2008, more than 3,000 first-year students have seen a one-hour lesson on sustainability presented by peer educators, called the Sustainability Advisors. Office of Sustainability Manager, Mark Stewart, created the Sustainability Advisors program to give new students the experience of learning about sustainability from exceptional upperclassmen students who are very knowledgeable on the subject. In fact, both of the last two recipients of the University Medal – the highest award this university grants to a graduating senior each year – were Sustainability Advisors. Dylan Rebois and Phil Hannam are now studying sustainability in graduate school at Oxford University and Princeton University, respectively.
During the fall 2011 semester, 11 Advisors presented the lesson to approximately 1,400 students, or roughly 40% of the first-year class. The Advisors visited 31 sections of UNIV 100, HONR 100, Scholars colloquia, and other first-year seminar courses. The Office of Sustainability hopes to see the program continue to grow and would ultimately like for 100% of new students to receive an introduction to sustainability.
Beyond first-year seminar courses, the Office of Sustainability is working with faculty to integrate sustainability across the curriculum so that students learn about sustainability from multi-disciplinary perspectives. The Chesapeake Project is a two-day workshop where faculty from across campus come together to discover unique ways to build an assignment, discussion, or overarching theme of sustainability into their existing or new courses.
Hosted each May since 2009, 71 UMD professors have participated in the workshop and integrated sustainability into 81 courses in 33 departments, representing all 12 colleges. Because of the Chesapeake Project, thousands of undergraduate and graduate students have experienced sustainability issues in courses such as History of American Art to 1876 (Prof. Renee Ater), Business Ethics (Prof. Brian Nelson), Kinesiology for Dancers (Prof. Sharon Mansur), and Intro to Engineering Design (Prof. Sheryl Ehrman).
The Chesapeake Project is led by Mark Stewart, Sustainability Manager; Bruce James, Professor and Director of Environmental Science and Policy; and Rachelle Sampson; Associate Professor of Business. Funding comes from the Provost and the deans of each of the colleges. Professors who participate in the workshop and integrate sustainability into at least one course they regularly teach receive a $500 stipend and ongoing support through the Chesapeake Project Faculty Learning Community. The Office of Sustainability will host the next workshop in May 2012.
For more information on sustainability education efforts at UMD, to schedule a Sustainability Advisor to visit your class, or to participate in the Chesapeake Project, contact Mark Stewart at email@example.com.