Toward Reciprocal Integration: Fusing STEM, Liberal Arts and Business Curricula in Undergraduate Sustainability Education

Wednesday 11:30am-1:30pm UMC Aspen Rooms
Poster Presentation Part of Sustainability and the Environment


Rick Oches, Bentley University
David Szymanski, Bentley University
Donna Fletcher, Bentley University
Timothy Sipe, Franklin and Marshall College
jeffrey nesteruk, Franklin and Marshall College
Christine Mooney, Northern Illinois University
Sheldon Turner, Triton College
While a scientifically and technologically literate citizenry is essential to meet the challenges of sustainability and ensure U.S. economic competitiveness, a strong STEM workforce alone is not sufficient to address complex problems like water scarcity, growing energy demand, and global climate change. In a world driven by commerce, decision making for sustainability requires reshaping education for future business leaders, and at the same time, teaching all students to think critically and practically about their role in commerce and society. Achieving this kind of "reciprocal integration" among STEM, liberal arts and business disciplines requires a transformation in higher education, including a change in the way faculty approach – and understand – transdisciplinary teaching.

We present here a model for moving toward reciprocal integration through the collaborative development of transdisciplinary undergraduate sustainability curricula. We describe an innovative model for moving toward reciprocal integration of business and STEM/liberal arts education by collaboratively developing, implementing, and rigorously assessing transdisciplinary undergraduate sustainability curricula across three different types of academic institutions with different student populations and academic cultures: Bentley University (Waltham, MA), a small university focusing on business education; Franklin & Marshall College (Lancaster, PA), a traditional undergraduate liberal arts college; and Northern Illinois University (DeKalb, IL), a large public research university.

Using a sound theoretical approach and sustainability as context for teaching the transdisciplinary nature of complex systems, our model builds on preliminary research aimed at bringing STEM, liberal arts and business faculty together to construct modules for teaching core disciplinary principles in the context of a larger problem of sustainability. While our pilot project was successful, testing the broader development and implementation of fused curricula to bring about the essential cultural change in higher education requires a deeper bench of faculty, students, and institutional cultures and settings.