Initial Publication Date: July 19, 2016

Improving Programs

Part of the InTeGrate Wittenberg University Program Model

Program Motivation

Wittenberg's institutional mission,"challenges students to become responsible global citizens, to discover their callings, and to lead personal, professional, and civic lives of creativity, service, compassion, and integrity." Our enduring motivation is to support a citizenry capable of solving sustainability challenges through engaging diverse disciplinary perspectives. This requires realizing our mission and cultivating both the caring and agency needed to face challenges. It also requires supporting key skills in critical and interdisciplinary thinking and expanding participation through collaboration. Previous curricular efforts have built connections between disciplines, such as the creation of interdisciplinary programs and an ongoing Cultures and Languages Across the Curriculum option. Other efforts have connected us to partners including local projects through the Geology Department and Environmental Science Program, a 30-hour community service requirement, and internships supported by the Susan Hirt Hagen Center for Civic and Urban Engagement. There has been recent momentum around sustainability through the creation of the Sustainability Task Force, the signing of the President's Climate Commitment, and growth in student sustainability-related co-curricular participation. In spite of this growth, participation was limited to a handful of departments. There was still a lack of collaboration between courses, co-curricular groups, and campus and local community organizations needed to truly support holistic sustainability problem solving. This project expands disciplines involved and linkages with campus, nearby colleges, and the broader community.


A core group of faculty from disciplines across the liberal arts has increased sustainability literacy through the implementation of sustainability modules and learning goals in a variety of existing courses and field experiences (i.e. internships and service learning opportunities in the community, existing international educational opportunities, etc.). This effort expanded to include additional faculty at Wittenberg and nearby surrounding institutions, as well as community partners. By 2016, 20 Wittenberg faculty, 3 administrators, 7 faculty from nearby institutions (University of Dayton, Antioch College, Clark State), and 11 local partners participated in workshops or event implementation.

There is an increased number of students participating in a sustainability curriculum and an increased student presence in sustainability problem-solving in our communities (campus and Springfield). All students explore their role and the diversity of ideas required to address sustainability challenges as part of Wittenberg's First Year Seminar. New curricular, programing, and partnering opportunities that draw from increased capacity are expected. For example, students, faculty, and partners host shared events.

Program-Level Goals and Evidence

Goal 1: Embedding high-impact geoscience sustainability curriculum in established courses across a breadth of disciplines

Faculty from Biology, Business, Chemistry, Geology, World Languages implemented InTeGrate Modules into their courses during the Spring 2014 semester. Four of the five courses were taught by project leaders who all have worked on other sustainability efforts on campus (e.g. the President's Climate Commitment, the Sustainability Task Force). This initial vested interest in sustainability was important to our effort because faculty were willing to work through fit issues. We even reflected on alternative approaches after a colleague from nursing had her students review the Map Your Hazards module and consider the implications of hazards management for the nursing field. Challenges and perspectives from non-science courses and a general chemistry course with rigid requirements helped us to create a worksheet to help faculty considering module implementation to think about adaptations for fit within their courses. Our evidence for success is the continuation of project leaders into the broadening participation phase coupled with continued use of modules by all faculty leaders.

Goal 2: Broadening student participation in sustainability through implementation of sustainability modules across disciplines at Wittenberg and nearby institutions

In April of 2014, core faculty from Biology, Chemistry, Geology, and World Languages met to examine lessons learned from their own implementation of sustainability modules to frame support for expanded implementation into a breadth of courses at Wittenberg and nearby schools. The workshop attendees included 10 Wittenberg faculty and 5 faculty from nearby schools. While not all attendees implemented modules due to timing, fit, and schedule changes, replacements were recruited. Since 2012, Wittenberg has used the Sustainability Tracking, Assessment and Rating System (STARS) to track participation in sustainability-related and sustainability-focused courses. Sustainability-focused courses incorporate at least one module on interdisciplinary sustainability topics, and sustainability-focused courses thread topics throughout the course. Reported participation in sustainability courses grew largely in response to increased implementation of InTeGrate modules, but also in response to two faculty who decided to revise their courses to incorporate interdisciplinary sustainability concepts in other ways. A few courses were also added to our reporting, as implementing faculty identified other courses that met this definition. In total, courses grew from 19 to 36 over two years. Participating departments also grew from 11 to 15 even with the discontinuation of one contributing program. This level of participation also supported 3 planning discussions for sustainability-related program offerings including a potential B.S. or B.A. degree.

Goal 3: Creating deep learning opportunities in sustainability through program development across the Wittenberg experience

Deep learning was supported through the creation and implementation of student-centered sustainability curriculum for the First Year Seminar (FYS). The FYS is a team taught course including a faculty member, support staff (e.g. coach, dean), and a peer mentor. Two project leaders were among the first cohort of faculty piloting FYS during its first year (2014-2015). The curriculum was revised using student and faculty feedback before it's second implementation in 2015-2016. Sustainability curriculum will continue to be featured in our First Year Seminar with revisions made as the program continues identify priority learning goals.

Deep learning was also supported through better coordinating between faculty and student co-curricular groups. Greater coordination is somewhat made visible by the greater presence of Wittenberg's sustainability efforts in campus and regional news sources (e.g. the student paper, the Wittenberg website, the Springfield News Sun, and WYSO). During 2015-2016, three out of eleven, Witt Series speakers addressed sustainability-focused or sustainability related topics. This included: Dr. Larry Rassmussen, an Environmental Ethicist, Dr. Joyce Ladner, a civil rights activist, and Dr. John Warner, a green chemist. Ladner called Climate Change one of the key civil rights issues of our time. Warner also pointed out that Wittenberg is one of a growing number of Green Chemistry colleges that has committed to a more sustainable chemical waste stream. Attendance at all events was high, and all FYS students attended Dr. Ladner's talk. Students and faculty also worked together to host three events that connected Wittenberg to a Springfield, Ohio and campus audience through the Global Education Series. In 2015-2016, the theme Global EarthCare approached sustainability topics through a variety of lenses, including religious and community development. To kick off the series, Environmental Science and Geology faculty highlighted the projects that students worked on to address wicked problems in our community, including: tracking urban nuisance species, monitoring wetland biodiversity, analyzing soil health and urban lead sources, and identifying opportunities to improve ecosystem services in public lands, especially in the Buck Creek Corridor (see news feature). These efforts coordinate with community experts and inform local decision making such as dam removal, wetland restoration, or stormwater management and provide outreach materials (e.g. educational resources, signs, social media). Environmental Science Faculty and Geology faculty have committed to providing students with rich-applied experiences that mirror the skills they will need as professionals.

Planning between faculty and co-curricular groups has supported growth in campus and community sustainability events. For example, students led two of the Global EarthCare Events. One event featured proactive solutions, and booth presenters included students from the EcoHouse, Sustainability Task Force, PoWER, and the Clark County Citizens Climate Lobby. The other event paired a Wittenberg Green Senator, Max Joseph, with Khaula Zafar, a Muslim environmental activist who shared a scientific and moral obligation to address climate change. Student groups also hosted at least 5 other sustainability-related activities (e.g. a recycling contest, Climate Event at an art gallery, Climate Trivia night, Climate Advocacy training). Several PechaKucha Night's were sponsored by the Westcott House and featured sustainability themes and Wittenberg students and faculty.

Finally, in early 2016 team leaders worked with the Administrative Director of the Hagen Center for Civic and Urban Engagement, Stephanie McCuistion, to develop materials for a workshop to support interdisciplinary sustainability projects that incorporate ideas from InTeGrate (e.g. authentic data, systems thinking, metacognition) to address local grand challenge issues, in partnership with community experts. In total, seven experts, eleven faculty, and the Assistant Director of the Hagen Center, Sarah Shivler attended. Already, this effort has supported the identification of assessment tools to be used for both community-based courses and internships that will be available through the Hagen Center. Several workshop participants have already connected with each other in ways beyond planning their Fall implementation efforts to discuss grant opportunities, internship partnering, and to co-teach each others' classes. For example, Dr. Fortner and Dr. Burgett took their introductory environmental science class to Antioch College to meet with Dr. Landsbergen to learn land management strategies that promote biodiversity and soil health before working on a landscape research and restoration project at George Rogers Clark Park. Multiple attending partners interested in urban gardening identified test sites for urban soil health analyses at sites around the city for a summer intern to expand the work conducted by an Environmental Science Methods class. Dr. Cunningham invited a panel of science faculty into her Communication course to discuss common issues in science communication.

Unexpected Outcomes

The outcomes below were not planned for and likely came out of ongoing and intentional discussions to move sustainability curriculum forward at Wittenberg. In addition, as we sought to broaden participation in sustainability curriculum implementation, we sent out recruiting emails to all faculty that also included updates on our progress to date. This likely improved our ability to expand beyond our proposal.

Outcome 1: Coordinated Planning Across the Geology Department and Environmental Science Program. Because three out of four environmental science core faculty were involved in this program model or developing InTeGrate materials, this project resulted in identifying collective program strengths in locally-relevant research exploring grand challenges. We unified our approach around ideas from InTeGrate and VALUE rubrics. This also supported our ideas on how to expand across the liberal arts with VALUE rubrics well recognized across campus. Additionally, faculty are collaborating on several community projects, one NSF IUSE Grant (not funded), and multiple abstracts, and one journal article is underway (biogeochemistry-water research).

Outcome 2: Identification of Additional Assessment Tools Valued by Wittenberg University. Faculty leading this project were involved in other institutional committees. This supported developing an Engaged Learning Audit (Microsoft Word 2007 (.docx) 19kB Jul20 16) to assess institutional strengths through a query of departments. Later, results from this audit were compiled with other institutional surveys (e.g. HERI, NSSE, inventory of community-based projects) to identify our strengths in interdisciplinary applied projects in collaboration partners as part of a strategic planning committee on our community identity.

Outcome 3: Ideas from InTeGrate inform efforts beyond Wittenberg. Resources created for the Building Societal Relevance into Your Course and Program mini-workshop at the 2015 Earth Educator's Rendezvous were shared with the Inspiring Girls Workshop. Also, several tools used to measure project success have also been passed on to collaborators at other programs (e.g. the Juneau Icefield Research Program will use the Summer Undergraduate Research Experience (SURE) Survey, similar to the course-based tools used by Wittenberg).

Outcome 4: High-level of Institutional Recognition for Faculty Leading this Effort or Serving as Key Collaborators. Faculty leaders and collaborators received Wittenberg's highest honors for Distinguished Teaching (Ritter), Faculty Excellence (Burgett) Community Service (Ritter), and Sustainability (Fortner, Burgett, Hoff, Cunningham). Students who assisted with community projects also received accolades for their work on local sustainability challenges.

Outcome 5: High-level of Administrative Support. Throughout the project, administrators supported our effort and offered us space at faculty retreats and attended joint meetings/webinars (e.g. first Supporting Change webinar led by Judith Ramaley). This likely resulted from our commitment to looping faculty leadership into our project progress and the administrations desire to support program growth.

Outcome 6: Growth in course-based partnering results in increased internship opportunities and resources for students. As a consequence of planning to support community project development across the curriculum in the last year of this project, we expanded our activities with partners in existing courses (e.g. introductory courses: Geology of the Critical Zone, Sustainable Earth, and Global Climate Change and upper level courses Biogeochemistry, Freshwater Resources, Watershed Hydrology and Environmental Science Methods). The unexpected outcome of greater partnering was the other opportunities that students gained including internships, professional networking (e.g. partners sharing opportunities), and land or instrumentation resources. Now we are specifically working to identify ways to maximize gains for students and partners.

Long-term Impact and Next Steps

Our sustainability effort has built institutional capacity in sustainability and course collaboration with community partners. To leverage this gained capacity will require continued planning between faculty and the Susan Hirt Hagen Center for Civic and Urban Engagement. We are positioned to build more intentional linkages between courses and the interests of our community. Wittenberg is already recognized for its high level of community-engagement, but this will position us uniquely as an institution that provides lifelong interdisciplinary problem solving skills. We have already begun this work through the alignment of course and internship assessment tools. Additionally, there are opportunities to build national capacity to address wicked challenges through service learning. Our plan is to continue to work together in strong collaborative teams at Wittenberg and beyond. Institutionally, we also envision potential sustainability B.A. degrees in socio-political realms and business, two areas where there is interest and energy for program building. Many courses have already been added to the Environmental Science Program in a revision submitted in Spring 2016. New sustainability-related degree options will require overcoming some of our institutional barriers to interdisciplinary programs (e.g. success measured by disciplinary, not interdisciplinary majors). Program drafting is underway.