Sustainability Across the Disciplines, Faculty Curriculum Development Workshop, Tuesday, June 2, 2015
By Leah Dorrian, Sustainability Intern
The Sustainability Across the Disciplines on June 1st and 2nd was a workshop for professors across the disciplines to brainstorm and share ideas of how to incorporate sustainable topics into their classes. Organized and facilitated by Dr. Rita Turner and Tanvi Gadhia, this two day workshop featured a tour of the campus garden, faculty presentations, and group discussion that encouraged innovative strategies and ideas for the development of a sustainability unit in each professor’s curriculum.
On the second day of the workshop, I sat in on visionary discussions amongst professors. Each speaker of the day was incredibly passionate and eager to share their past experiences with this topic in their classes, as well as offer progressive ways in which this broad topic could be delivered to students in a successful way.
Faculty at the Community Garden and Permaculture Food Forest tour with Jill Wrigly, INDS
Dr. Biehler, a professor of the Geography and Environmental Systems department, presented at the workshop with a holistic approach towards Sustainability. The presentation gave an overview of environmental injustice, where the inequalities and struggles of environmental issues are felt by fragmented communities. She honed in on the idea that sustainability involves not only the environment but economics, culture, and politics; it involves the people. It is not jobs OR sustainability, the culture OR environmentalism, but it is BOTH-AND. Dr. Biehler emphasized that it is imperative to express this to students and to encourage them to hold contradictions in their minds in order to resolve the problem. In her past classes, she has taken students to work with inner-city communities to help restore dilapidated areas where environmental injustice is rampant. The ultimate resolution, she describes, is not clear and often requires continuous work to maintain justice within these communities. With a quote from Bell Hooks, Dr. Biehler relates that “it’s not about ‘saving the world’ or ‘saving these kids’ but about building relationships.”
After this presentation, the rest of the professors brainstorm and discuss ways in which these commendable ideas could transform their individualized lesson plans. It was consensual that exposing students to the issues of environmental justice was an important component of a more holistic representation of sustainability.
Tanvi Gadhia followed up this discussion with an valuable speech about campus sustainability resources. Providing data of UMBC’s carbon footprint, she offers ways in which professors and their students could become more aware of their impact on the environment. She invites feedback and concerns from the professors, and as a group they brainstormed new ways in which each of them could incorporate the resources to compliment their courses for the upcoming semester and years.
After David Hoffman’s talk on “breaking ground” for UMBC’s sustainability efforts, the workshop transitioned into a group discussion on how to design their courses and implement these new ideas into their classes.
It is quite evident that professors of UMBC are ambitious in spreading ideas of sustainability to their students. As a student myself, I am now aware of the efforts behind the scenes that manifest such meaningful courses, and it is inspiring to understand the level of enthusiasm that these professors have adopted on environmental matters.