Title

“The creation of an integrated sustainability curriculum and student praxis projects.”

Document Type

Article

Publication Date

2011

Publisher

Emerald

Abstract

Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to share the content and early results from an interdisciplinary sustainability curriculum that integrates theory and practice (praxis). The curriculum links new topical courses concerning renewable energy, food, water, engineering and social change with specialized labs that enhance technological and social‐institutional sustainability literacy and build team‐based project collaboration skills. Design/methodology/approach – In responses to dynamic interest emerging from university students and society, scholars from Environmental Studies, Engineering, Sociology, Education and Politics Departments united to create this curriculum. New courses and labs were designed and pre‐existing courses were “radically retrofitted” and more tightly integrated through co‐instruction and content. The co‐authors discuss the background and collaborative processes that led to the emergence of this curriculum and describe the pedagogy and results associated with the student projects. Findings – Interdisciplinary student teams developed innovative projects with both campus and community‐based partners. However, the incentives for an integrated sustainability curriculum faced persistent obstacles including the balkanization of academic knowledge, university organizational structure, and the need for additional human and financial investments. The team is currently designing the second phase of this integration and expanding a social learning network through collaborations with five universities in the Americas and Europe. Originality/value – This paper shows the development process, design and content of an interdisciplinary sustainability curriculum that integrates engineering with the social and ecological sciences while enlivening campus‐community relationships through student projects. Several replicable practices include the contents and integration of topical classes, the strategies to overcome the obstacles for developing interdisciplinary student teams engaged in problem‐based learning and approaches to negotiate institutional hurdles.