Different shades of green

As colleges and universities prepare students to lead the green jobs revolution, they will take a variety of approaches to integrating sustainability into academics. One shade of green doesn’t suit every college and university, says Dedee DeLongpré Johnston, director of sustainability at Wake Forest.

More than 100 higher education leaders from around the country will gather at Wake Forest March 22 and 23 to discuss and debate the ways sustainability can be better integrated into academics. The conference, “Taking It to the Next Level: Strategies for Adaptation across the Sustainability Curriculum,” is free and open to the public, but registration is required.

On some campuses, sustainability is emerging as a new multidisciplinary field much like women’s and gender studies or urban planning. Other schools encourage faculty to incorporate sustainability themes into existing single-subject courses. Should sustainability be its own academic discipline? Should sustainability be infused into courses across the curriculum? Yes and yes, says DeLongpré Johnston, who organized the conference.

“This conference is designed to help campus leaders develop comprehensive strategies for integrating sustainability into the curriculum,” she said. “The goal is for participants to develop plans they can start putting into place on Monday morning.”

Paul Rowland, executive director of the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education, and more than a dozen other national leaders in sustainability in higher education will speak at the conference. “Sustainability is about ensuring opportunities for future generations to thrive,” Rowland said. “When you think about higher education, we would say it has the same goal. Higher education has the responsibility to provide future leaders of professions with the necessary tools and understanding to see the world through the lens of sustainability.”

Case studies of schools that have taken different approaches to integrating sustainability into the curriculum will be presented. Participants will also look at how best to mix traditional coursework with hands-on, problem-based learning outside the classroom.

One session “Beyond Green: New Sustainable Jobs” will be facilitated by Andy Chan, vice president for career development at Wake Forest. The panelists will discuss how two-year colleges and four-year institutions can work together to prepare graduates to work in the new green economy.

Waste reduction programs, renewable energy strategies, green building efforts and other operational initiatives at universities are moving forward at a faster pace than efforts to integrate sustainability into the curriculum, DeLongpré Johnston said. She hopes the conference will inspire additional momentum on the academic front.

Categories: Community, Sustainability