Sustainability Across the Curriculum

Darren Leaver, Geography, Glendale Community College (CA)

Based on a faculty and student initiative, Glendale Community College (GCC) initiated a sustainability program in October 2010, including the establishment of an Environmental Affairs governance committee. The mission of this committee is to raise campus awareness of sustainability by promoting the incorporation of this concept into the various curricula across the campus. A major goal is to raise awareness, which would provide a pathway for the implementation of sustainable practices into all aspects of campus life; curriculum, facilities, purchasing, and transportation.

As we commenced this program considerable emphasis was placed on incorporating the concept of sustainability into curriculum across the campus. Unfortunately, the California fiscal crisis caused elimination of project funding before it could be implemented as initially envisioned. Nonetheless, there was strong commitment from faculty across the campus disciplines to incorporate sustainability curriculum into an array of courses including English, Health, Economics, History and Biology, in addition to Geography and Geosciences where these topics already were an established core component.

Elements of the program included weekly meetings of faculty from various disciplines to discuss selected articles with a focus on sustainability. The articles covered very diverse topics, from historical agricultural practices to modern modes of transportation and consumerism, with an equally diverse array of authors including Jared Diamond, Michael Pollan, Bill McKibben, and the Dalai Lama. Discussions allowed us to uncover the various perspectives on sustainability as viewed from the specific disciplines, and to debate (at times heated) the viability of proposed solutions to some of the issues raised. The meetings allowed the faculty to explore avenues for weaving the subject matter into the various course curricula, and we had the added benefit of an increased understanding of complex issues.

The strength of the program is that it allows for the concept of Sustainability, a key concept in the geosciences, to be easily woven into the curricula across the campus. The program challenges instructors to explore the concept of sustainability from multiple points-of-view, to collaborate with colleagues to find suitable classroom materials which best incorporate sustainability into the classroom. An additional strength is the willingness of faculty from across campus disciplines to show interest in participation. We have received positive intentions from instructors in many disciplines including Philosophy, History, Child Development, Sociology, Health, Anthropology, Biology, Economics, Business, Marketing, Political Science, English and Math. Student interest is also very high as many see lessons about the environment and sustainability as being important in their careers and future citizen roles. The program not only helps Geoscience majors identify topics of interest and common threads across campus disciplines, but ingrains the concept of sustainability into the mindset of students from various majors.

The main challenge we face is maintaining a campus program at a time when the California community colleges are facing a financial crisis. Our funding for a program coordinator was eliminated and faculty workloads increased. Sustainability remains a key topic in classes taught by many of these instructors who participated in the program but without funding, centralized program coordination has been elusive.

Building on our initial sustainability across the curriculum efforts, we would like to re-establish our program as a fully functional demonstration project to serve as a model for similar programs in community colleges. We would develop a process for implementing sustainability across the curriculum and provide specific examples in which sustainability can be infused into a broad range of courses. The GCC Geography and Geology Departments would take the lead in this effort, supported by faculty from across the curriculum who participated in the original 2010 project.

Darren Leaver
Asst. Prof. of Geography
Glendale Community College, CA

Environmental Assessment Specialists (EAS)
Environmental Services for the Telecommunications Industry

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Sustainability Across the Curriculum (Microsoft Word 27kB Apr24 12)