Building trans-disciplinary sustainability studies into the college curriculum
While some universities, such as Arizona State and the University of Michigan, have large-scale interdisciplinary sustainability programs with major funding (Fogg 2006, George 2007), few have incorporated team teaching across disciplines and applied service projects at the undergraduate level with minimal resources. Processes, challenges and implications will be presented for discussion. The Texas Woman’s University “Science, Society and Sustainability” certificate begins with a gateway course team taught by science, business, and law instructors; requires building block courses from a variety of disciplines; and culminates in a capstone course with an applied service learning project. Goals for the program include: (1) to prepare students for jobs in different disciplines that require understanding of sustainability principles, (2) to allow students to use critical thinking and applied learning in a multidisciplinary way, and (3) to implement local, student-led sustainability initiatives. The program integrates the principles and values of sustainable practices into all aspects of education and learning so students have the necessary skills to address emerging social, economic, legal, cultural and environmental problems. In a trans-disciplinary world with multi-dimensional challenges such as sustainability, higher education institutions must re-think their approach to education, including more integrative, cross-discipline learning experiences (Conceicao et al. 2010). This type of innovation also lends itself to Quality Enhancement Plan initiatives (e.g., service learning, critical thinking, research or communication skills). Potential learning outcomes can apply to faculty as well as students. Challenges can include faculty buy-in and training, infrastructure impediments to team teaching, functional territorialism and lack of support from administration and the community. Yet with successful implementation, this type of program can add value for students and bring distinction to the university.