Build Interdisciplinary Networks

This page was developed as a synthesis of lessons learned by participants in InTeGrate program models and is part of an extended set of InTeGrate resources on managing curricular reform.

Managing Curriculum Reform

Why Focus on Sustainability?
Personal and collective actions are needed to ensure the sustainable use of our natural resources and environmental systems—land, air, and water—in an ethical and responsible manner. On this page, InTeGrate lays out the rationale for why undergraduate education should include a focus on Sustainability and Earth-centered societal issues.

Teach Earth Across the Curriculum
Several of the 16 InTeGrate program models sought to spread the teaching of Earth-related material widely through their undergraduate curricula. This suite of pages synthesizes the lessons they learned about how to do that.

Embed Sustainability in your Program
Issues such as balancing energy alternatives with environmental toxification, climate change, and provisioning a growing human population while maintaining natural resources have fundamental geoscience components. This set of pages makes the case that more geoscience programs should include learning about Sustainability as well as different ways that can be accomplished.

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Search all InTeGrate Curriculum Reform Resources

In order to teach Earth across the curriculum, faculty members must be networked across different units of an institution. Teaching about the Earth, especially when using a sustainability framework, is an inherently interdisciplinary endeavor, and success of the program depends on bringing people with a diversity of expertise together. A common challenge of doing this is the disciplinary silo-ing that often occurs at colleges/universities. We have found that building strong networks across the college/university enhances the success and sustainability of these projects and that those networks can benefit from having non-faculty perspectives represented (administrators, center staff, facilities, etc.).

Unite Faculty and Staff with Common Interests

Successful networks require a common theme around which the members can unite and build a community of practice. A community of practice is a group of people who share a concern or a passion for something they do, and learn how to do it better as they interact regularly (Wegner-Trayner & Wegner-Trayner, 2015). Within a community of practice, faculty and staff learn from one another, support one another, and identify opportunities for collaboration. Creating a successful community of practice requires an understanding of the topics that are salient to the members at the institution and are aligned with momentum at the institution. Many colleges and universities have environmental and/or sustainability institutes where common interests can be started and leveraged within the institution.

California State University - Chico
CSU Chico's Sustainability Pathway in General Education builds on university-wide interest in sustainability and institutional efforts to create topical pathways that satisfy general education requirements.
Gustavus Adolphus College
GAC connected content experts with non-geoscience faculty who were interested, but lacked content background, to teach climate science.
University of South Dakota
USD developed a faculty cohort from across the university to teach about earth science and sustainability using the Missouri River as a case study. The program built on the existing infrastructure of the Missouri River Institute (MRI) by creating a network among the faculty affiliated with MRI.
Wittenberg University
Wittenberg found that faculty connections led to more connections and collaborative opportunities that extended beyond the original project.
Savannah State University
By pooling on-campus expertise from multiple disciplines, students have access to courses that will help them to communicate issues and solutions in Coastal Hazards, Risk Management, and Environmental Justice from economic, environmental, cultural, social, and security angles.

Help Faculty Teach Outside their Discipline

Although interdisciplinary training in graduate school is becoming increasingly common, most faculty have been trained within a specific discipline with limited training in other disciplines. Therefore, incorporating the Earth into non-geoscience courses can be a challenge because it requires teaching outside of the faculty's area of expertise, and therefore often outside of their comfort zone. Training and collaboration of some form is often required to help faculty to gain the requisite knowledge and feel comfortable teaching content outside of their primary area of expertise.

Gustavus Adolphus College
GAC partnered a geoscience faculty "developer" with a non-geoscience faculty "host." In this model the faculty developer worked with the faculty host to develop mini-modules related to climate change to be incorporated into the non-geoscience courses.
University of South Dakota
USD used a faculty workshop to provide faculty from across USD with background knowledge about place-based learning, sustainability, and multi-disciplinary perspectives on the Missouri River.
Claflin University
As a part of the Claflin team's work, faculty from 9 different disciplines (STEM and non-STEM) came together to help promote Earth Sciences and increase the number of students exposed to the field. The team developed 4 professional development workshops to help faculty teach content outside their discipline in non-geoscience courses.
Shippensburg University
The Shippensburg team devoted significant effort to enabling faculty inside and outside of the geoscience discipline to implement the InTeGrate modules in their courses.