Using a common theme to engage the student body in sustainability

Sustainability is a transdisciplinary topic, one that business schools increasingly recognise needs to be embedded into each course and across curricula. But how does one go about doing this?

There are a growing number of interesting examples coming from schools around the world that are taking innovative approaches to engaging students in these types of discussions. One approach taken by a few schools is to choose a theme and to explore that theme, across a range of different classes, from a range of different angles.

Coles College of Business at Kennesaw State University has developed a country study programmed called “The Year of”. The aim of the course is, over a full academic year, to take a wide-ranging look at a specific country or region from its earliest history right up to current events, including social and environmental issues. The goal is to help students and staff better understand and appreciate other countries and cultures and break down stereotypes. The year includes a series of lectures, performances, exhibits and films as well as opportunities to develop working relationships with consular officials, business leaders and expatriates. The programme also offers grants to encourage general education faculty to produce discipline-based modules on the country under study, use them in their own classes, and disseminate them among colleagues. 2011-2012 is The Year of Peru.

Another school taking a similar approach is Pacific Lutheran University. In the spring 2011 semester, sections of the courses Financial Accounting and Principles of Marketing had a shared reading, “Travels of a T-shirt,” in addition to the ordinary textbooks for each course. The classes had three joint meetings throughout the semester where they used open discussion, class exercises and debate to discuss the business sustainability issues raised in the book. They worked to ensure that the classes not only understood the discipline issues, (Accounting and Marketing) but that the intersections of the two disciplines on these issues and the perspectives of each discipline on sustainability.

Has your school taken a similar approach to teaching students and staff about sustainability issues? Please share your examples in the comments area below.


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