Sustainable Buildings on Campus (Part 2)

Screen Shot 2015-04-09 at 15.55.33Engaging in sustainability and responsible leaders goes beyond the classroom curriculum. It must also be engrained into the business school itself on its campus. A growing number of business schools and universities are not just putting in place strategies to ‘green’ their buildings on campus, but certifying these buildings through different national and international schemes.

There has been a significant rise in a mix of voluntary certification and mandatory requirements for both new buildings and existing constructions that are changing the way University campuses look around the globe. These standards provide guidance on creating more sustainable buildings through a wide range of topics including, but not limited to site selection, energy efficiency and sourcing, materials, construction practices, water efficiency and use, the design of the space and landscaping. In Part 1 we looked at LEED certified campuses (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) across the US. Here in Part 2, we look at a number of Sustainable Buildings around the world.

The John Molson School of Business building at Concordia University in Canada is LEED Silver certified. The 37,000 square metre, 15-storey building incorporates bright atriums, modern classrooms, and several auditoriums and amphitheatres. The low-flow plumbing fixtures throughout the building reduced water consumption by 45%, and a green roof on the fourth floor has a seating area with a garden to promote cultivation projects. The building’s southwest wall is considered the first even ‘solar wall’ in the world with solar panels stretching the length of the wall covering a surface of approximately 300 square metres. The photovoltaic panels will generate up to 25 kW of electricity and 75 kW of heat—that’s enough energy to turn on 1,250 CFL light bulbs, and provide heat for seven Canadian homes throughout the year. The greening project was funded by the NSERC Solar Buildings Research Network, based at Concordia University, which brings together twenty-six Canadian researchers from eleven universities to develop the solar optimised homes and commercial buildings of the future.

CEIBS became the first business school in China to have a LEED Gold certified building. This is thanks to an initiative started in 2007 by a handful of MBA students. Over the years other students continued their work in the initiative, and by 2010 one of the major goals was ensuring that the end result of a planned campus expansion project would be a green building. The building relies heavily on innovative wastewater technology to maintain pools of water that surround the campus. An on site treatment facility converts 180 tonnes of waste water per day and through that the school saves 54,000 tones of potable water each year.

In India the Great Lakes Institute’s 27-acre campus is LEED Platinum certified. It uses natural daylight and maintains further energy efficiency through solar energy and solar water heaters used throughout the building. Rainwater is harvested through percolation ponds and tanks across campus and greywater is produced on campus and reused in different ways such as for lavatories and gardening. An organic herbal garden including native vegetation promotes biodiversity on campus.

Porto Business School in Portugal earned LEED Gold certification on their new facilities in 2014, the first building in Portugal to receive this level of certification. Three artificial lakes that collect rainwater are partly used for lavatories and irrigation. The buildings have efficient air conditioning and lighting systems, and the intensity of the light is automatically adjusted by daylight and space occupancy in a room. A wide variety of recycled and non-toxic materials were used in the construction of the building.

LEED is of course by no means the only green building standard. Many countries have their own standards. The University of Bradford’s ‘The Green’ received the highest rating from BREEAM, a UK design and assessment method for sustainable buildings used internationally. ‘The Green,’ the student accommodation on the university’s main campus, is a ten-block student residential village with 1,026 bedrooms. Hot water is pre-heated by solar thermal panels and food waste is quickly composted on site. Landscaping includes vegetable beds and orchards for students to use—only planted with indigenous plants—as well as beehives. The aim of the building is to promote a sense of community among the students

In Australia, the Green Building Council of Australia awards Green Star certifications. For example, Curtin University received a Green Star rating for their plans to transform 114 hectares of one of their campuses through urban regeneration over a 20-year period that supports an urban economy based on education, business, technology, housing, public transportation, the arts and recreation. Monash University has a number of Green Star certified buildings. One of their buildings has a 1-megawatt co-generation plant that generates electricity and heating for the building and the wider campus, lights with sensors that adjust to daylight levels and occupancy, and basement tanks that hold harvested storm water and rainwater for use in toilet flushing, landscape irrigation and the building’s cooling system. Another building used for low cost student housing features the largest residential solar installation in Australia, as well as greywater treatment onsite, which is stored along with rainwater, for flushing, washing machines and irrigation.

The Australian Catholic University also has a Green Star building. Here the heating and cooling system is designed to adapt to the natural seasons, weather cycles and the general flow of people in the building. An under floor vent system helps keep the temperature at 21-25 degrees all year round. When the temperature hits 25, cool air flushes through vents integrated into the carpet tiles, and the vents pump warm air out when the temperature drops to 21. Floor to ceiling windows and unusually high ceilings let in enough natural light that artificial light is rarely needed.

The Green Building Council of South Africa also has a Green Star system similar to Australia. The Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University Business School’s new building is the first in South Africa to receive a green design rating from this programme. Though the school found that doing the certification added up to 20% on initial building costs, they expect to recover those costs over the first year, through efficient lighting, solar energy and water use. The building uses 60% less energy than similar buildings and 75% less water due to low flow fittings.

 

Sustainable Buildings on Campus (Part 1)

Concordia UniversityEngaging in sustainability and responsible leaders goes beyond the classroom curriculum. It must also be engrained into the business school itself on its campus. A growing number of business schools and universities are not just putting in place strategies to ‘green’ their buildings on campus, but certifying these buildings through different national and international schemes. Although several say that this increases the upfront costs of the renovations or building projects, many also say that they recuperate much of that through lower operation costs. At the same time this creates more efficient and interesting buildings that create a sense of community beyond the campus.

There has been a significant rise in a mix of voluntary certification and mandatory requirements for both new buildings and existing constructions that are changing the way University campuses look around the globe. These standards provide guidance on creating more sustainable buildings through a wide range of topics including, but not limited to site selection, energy efficiency and sourcing, materials, construction practices, water efficiency and use, the design of the space and landscaping. Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) is one set of sustainable building standards based in the US. It is a voluntary certification programme that verifies use of sustainability practices in key performance areas including siding selection, water efficiency, energy efficiency, materials and indoor air quality, and awards buildings certified, silver, gold or platinum.

Roosevelt University’s 32-storey skyscraper is the ninth largest university building in the world and is LEED Gold certified. Nearly 8,000 square feet of green roof on 5 floors reduces the city’s heat island effect and provides a rooftop vegetable garden. There is an advanced recycling system on every floor that automatically sorts trash and self cleans. A food pulper system uses recycled water and rescues 80% of solid food waste that is then composted and added to the soil at the campus community garden. The building has plenty of indoor bike parking, as well as easy access to showers for riders. The carpets throughout the buildings are made from 60% recycled plastic containers and even the façade of the building is built with ‘visual noise’ to protect birds from colliding with the reflective surface.

These certifications don’t only apply to new buildings but to renovated older buildings as well. Thunderbird School of Management’s home, a renovated World War II-era building that served as an air traffic control tower, has LEED Silver certification. The tower has an energy efficient roof and windows, water efficient plumbing fixtures, maximised daylight and minimised construction waste. Select furniture was made from recycled or reclaimed materials, and the ceilings were constructed with materials salvaged during the renovations.

The University of California Berkeley campus currently has fourteen LEED certified building projects and 6 more underway, representing over 10% of the total square footage of the campus. Major projects are designed to achieve Gold certification, and required at a minimum to achieve Silver. This is part of the university’s overall green building strategy, which includes a no net increase energy goal, meaning the proposed project would not result in an increase in the building’s metered energy. New building and renovation projects are required to outperform local energy codes by at least 30%. The Maximino Martinez Commons building on their campus is powered in part by 10,000 therms of solar water heating.

The University of California Santa Cruz Student Health Centre building has received Gold certification—the project was started by a student of environmental studies and economics, who graduated in 2009. The entire $17 million project was funded by students through several bond measures and an agreement to a new compulsory fee of $5.20 per quarter per student. Among the changes were waterless urinals and more efficient flush toilets, planter boxes to capture storm water, reinforced turf instead of pavement in a turnaround area for service vehicles, recycled and other green building materials, and the use of FSC certified wood.

Maharishi University of Management’s Sustainable Living Centre is a carbon neutral building, creating more energy than it uses. Rooms are designed to harness the different qualities of sunlight at different times of the day to support different types of activity. The building is completely off the grid and has a wind tower and solar voltaic arrays with a power capacity of 20kW. Some months the building generates twice as much energy as it needs, and the excess is used to power other buildings across campus. It obtained the highest LEED certification level, Platinum. The website for the building allows anyone interested to see in real time the amount of energy being used and generated by the building.

A growing number of schools are putting in place green building standards for all new buildings on campus. All new buildings at Fordham University School of Business are being designed to achieve LEED Silver rating, ensuring that all new properties are environmentally responsible. They have been exceeding this goal in some construction, achieving the LEED Gold standard where possible. Bentley University has also established a policy that all new campus construction will be built to at least LEED Silver or beyond.

Does your campus have a green building policy? Are your buildings certified by a national or international scheme? Share your stories in the comments below.

 

Inspirational Guide for the Implementation of PRME – launch of the 2nd Edition

IG2-Cover_ImageIn collaboration with the 2013 PRME Summit – 5th Annual Assembly, case story contributions were invited for the Inspirational Guide for the Implementation of PRME, Second Edition: Learning to Go Beyond, which continues where the first edition, released at Rio+20 last year, left off. It contains a range of case stories around how business schools are putting sustainability principles into practice.

The multiple examples within the Guides have shown us the many different ways of implementing responsible management education and research. They show that the Six Principles of PRME are interrelated and often inseparable and that, often, all it takes is a group of committed individuals who champion these efforts to get started.

The case stories can be a source of inspiration for new projects, or they may help you further develop existing projects. Over the upcoming months, we will feature some of the examples from the Guides in more detail. Here we start with an overview of the Second Edition:

Part 1 – Beyond knowledge-only: Creating new competencies explores the range of competencies needed for responsible managers, including domain competencies, self-competencies, social competencies, and procedural competencies. Examples include Aalto University School of Business Master’s Programme in Management and Creative Sustainability, Mendoza College of Business, University of Notre Dame signature course Foresight in Business and Society, Milgard School of Business innovative course on Board Governance and Babson College‘s work with a social enterprise in Italy. It also looks at a range of teaching approaches, such as Copenhagen Business School’s Responsibility Day, ESPOL-ESPAE Graduate School of Management’s use of diverse study teams, Nottingham University Business School‘s intercultural approach to leadership education, and the University of Auckland student projects focused on inspiring positive change.

Part 2 – Beyond the classroom: Scaling experiential learning explores how learning through experience can be a powerful educational method for creating the competencies mentioned in Part 1. Examples include Leeds University Business School’s module in Volunteering and Enterprise, University of West of England Faculty of Business and Law’s Annual MBA Sustainability Study, Bentley University’s innovative social enterprise, Rotterdam School of Management’s course on Companies in Ecologies, Course, The American University in Cairo’s extracurricular student clubs, Externado University of Columbia First Steps in CSR programme, and Lagos Business School’s module on sustainable management.

Part 3 – Beyond the business school: Mainstreaming PRME across HEIs explores how to embed PRME in an interdisciplinary and larger institutional context. Examples include Aston University’s 2020 Strategy and Ethical Framework, Coventry University Business School, Faculty of Business, Environment and Society’s work to connect sustainability with the work of their research centres, and ESADE Business School’s mission to be a centre for social debate for society.

Part 4 – Beyond campus introspection: Making an impact through networks explores how academic institutions work in greater networks to scale their impact. Examples include the Ethos Initiatives, supported by IEDC-Bled School of Management, IAE Business School’s Center for Governance and Transparency, Ivey Business School’s 39 Country Initiative, Sabanci University School of Management’s Independent Women Directors Project, and ISAE/FGV’s work to strengthen the sustainability movement in Brazil. 

Part 5 – Beyond education-only: Harnessing research and publications explores how education and research can move sustainability discussion forward.  Examples include Glasgow Caledonian University’s Yunus Centre for Social Business and Health and the Center for Responsible Management Education research projects.

For more information on the Inspirational Guide, and to access the case stories, visit the PRME website.

East Africa University Researchers learn from Brazil’s Experience with Sustainability

At the 3rd Global Forum in Rio de Janeiro Brazil, Shiv Tripathi from Mzumbe University in Tanzania and Ajai Prakash from KCA University in Kenya visited ISAE in Curitiba, Brazil. The purpose of their trip was to learn more about ISAE’s approach to embedding sustainability into their curriculum. As a result of this meeting, the faculty involved put together a case study to allow others to learn more about some of the lessons that ISAE has already gained along this journey.

I had the chance to speak with Shiv after Rio about his trip to Curitiba and the ISAE case study.

1. Why did you decide to visit ISAE?

We first met ISAE President Prof. Norman de Paula during the PRME Latin America Conference in Buenos Aires (December, 2011). We were impressed by ISAE’s community partnership based responsible management education approach so we wanted to explore how ISAE was doing this. In July, after the PRME 3rd Global Forum in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil we had the opportunity to visit ISAE and learn about their work in person. We wanted to collect some cases – examples of management institutions’ role in poverty eradication for a proposed PRME book publication project. Fortunately, ISAE was willing to share its stories.

2. What are some of the most interesting findings from that meeting?

There were several interesting findings from the meeting. First, we were very interested in how ISAE demonstrates how institutions can integrate PRME philosophy into institutional mission/vision. They are developing a model for adoption of the responsible management education approach by actively engaging management, faculty, staff and students. The institution receives encouraging support from industry and community organizations. Most importantly, it does not aim to handle directly the community development activities, rather ISAE’s efforts are focused on strengthening the management capacity of other organizations engaged in helping to promote sustainable development.

3. Is Brazil’s approach very different from yours at home in Tanzania?

Yes, one could feel the difference in approach around integrating ethics and program curriculum. Here, in most cases I’ve seen the institutions treating ethics teaching as piece-meal approach i.e. offering a course or part of course on ethics and sustainability. At ISAE they are already actively working to integrate contents and methodology for ethics in the entire value-chain of programs by including it in all need-based subject areas. Their goal is truly to mainstream ethics and sustainability in management education.

4. How are you hoping the case will be used by others?

While developing the case, efforts were made to address the responsible management education challenges like content integration, student involvement, methodology, capacity building, etc. So it could be used to analyze the different implementation issues in the different settings by focusing on ISAE’s model. It could also be used as a model for ‘change management’ towards responsible management education. Further, the objective is to use the case in capacity-building training for institutions willing to adopt responsible management education and PRME.

5. What lessons from your trip are you able to apply to your programmes?

We are taking back quite a few lessons from this meeting to our campus around how to integrate ethics into the curriculum in particular. Ethics and sustainability need to be mainstreamed into all of our core and elective course offerings instead of only teaching dedicated courses in this area. In order to bring about this change, we need to integrate the topics not just into teaching but also in our research and outreach value change. Strong positive leadership, a belief in the concept of responsible management education and commitment at all levels is the key to making these changes.

To access the case click here.

To learn more about ISAE’s efforts around sustainability click here.

Competition Challenges Business Students to Rethink Course in Sustainable Terms

A team from MacEwan University, School of Business in Canada recently took second place in the PRME Leaders +20 Challenge, organized by Aarhus University. For this contest, students and lecturers in the field of management education teamed up to integrate sustainability perspectives into new or existing course descriptions.

The second place team was made up of Dr. Leo Wong, Caitlin Farrell, Rory Kirkpatrick, Cam McCoy, William Pasieka and Dan Scott, all bachelor of commerce students. Their entry involved revising the core Introduction to Business course – a requirement for over 600 students a year – based on the premise that responsible leadership and effective management require multiple perspectives: an understanding of business and its substantive disciplines, as well as emerging issues in the world of sustainable business. I recently had the chance to speak to Dr. Leo Wong about their winning entry.

1. Why change the core Introduction to Business course?

The BUSN 201 course has been around for a while, but its current delivery does not include sustainability content. In fact, we have struggled to get students engaged in the course as it is a general introductory course to all things business. This contest presented the opportunity to re-imagine what a course like this could look like if we integrated sustainability and changed the approach to be about inspiring and fostering responsible leaders.

The main advantage is that you introduce the topic early on, when students are starting to learn other business concepts. This helps them integrate a framework of sustainability into other concepts at the same time, instead of as an after-thought. You also expose all students to the topic, not just those who have self-selected into an elective. Some students, who may never have thought about sustainability or cared about it, now have an opportunity to assess whether it applies to their own careers and personal lives.

2. What are some of the changes that you are proposing?

We want to make the course much more student-driven. The students will be engaged in discussions about pertinent sustainability topics throughout the course, with a bit less emphasis on ‘lecturing’ material from a textbook (which was how the course ran previously). We also want to introduce a community service campaign, where all the students have the opportunity to apply basic business concepts by organizing themselves around innovative ideas to address community needs. Lastly, we want to bring in more local speakers who have first-hand experience with integrating sustainability into their businesses, and possibly even focusing on a few of them as live case studies, for the students to really get familiar with.

3. How did you go about putting together the proposal and how was it received?

I was able to recruit some students in one of my classes, Introduction to Nonprofit Management, as well as students from a group on campus called Students In Free Enterprise (SIFE) to join the team for this competition. Fortunately, those students also had a nice complement of skills – such as in video and audio production and connections to resources like a local composer who created original music – that made our entry to the competition higher quality. The students also ranged from 1st to 4th year students, so their perspectives were duly represented throughout the proposal. It truly became a passion for the students to submit something that we felt could win the competition and inspire people within and outside our school.

Engaging them was easy… they were so motivated to begin with. All I needed to do was create the space and opportunity for them to come together, and provide the necessary resources so they wouldn’t get slowed down. After putting the video together, we received a lot of online support for our proposal. Students who saw the video were often moved and inspired and looked forward to what this course would look like. Other staff and faculty were also very supportive of our work and, though some were a bit worried about the scale of the changes we proposed, I think the concern was from a well-intentioned place. It is an ambitious task, but everyone who has seen our video and heard about our proposal, has been very supportive in wanting to see these changes happen.

4. What are the challenges that you are encountering in making this happen and how are you dealing with them?

The main challenge is trying to strike the right balance between content and outcomes. We want to provide enough content for students to develop a basic understanding of introductory business concepts, but enough space for them to follow a path of self-discovery about sustainability issues. We do not plan to preach sustainability, but rather present it as a business option and let the students decide how it relates to their career path. We hope that as an outcome, they will take ownership over their time in this course and take advantage of the opportunity to become more engaged. As a result, their learning and practical application of concepts will increase.

We also need to coordinate the changes we make to this course and how it flows into other courses. Being the initial core course students take, they start with little background knowledge of business, but leave it to go into other courses. So we need to ensure the content they learn in this course transitions well into other courses, particularly how we address sustainability issues. These changes may eventually lead to a cascade of changes in other courses, which is something that should be discussed sooner, rather than later.

The other challenges relate to patience. I would love to make all the changes to the course right away, but some changes will take more time than others. For example, we want to reschedule how the various sections of the course are offered so we can accommodate high profile speakers coming in to address all the students.

5. So what’s next and what advice do you have for other schools thinking of doing a similar change?

Changing a course as dramatically as we are proposing will take a few years. We intend to make the easier changes regarding course content this coming school year. These focus on adding sustainability content (lecture materials, exercises, guest speakers) and encouraging our instructors to focus on facilitating discussion and exploration of issues over direct lecturing. We will then work on other structural changes to the course, which include scheduling and organizing students in classrooms to maximize their ability to learn collaboratively. Also, we are trying to integrate the course with senior students and student groups in order to provide mentoring and extra-curricular opportunities that will enhance what they learn in the classroom.

I would encourage schools to start that discussion now about how to do it. It is a much more difficult challenge to carry out than I thought originally, particularly since it involves other courses  and how they might potentially embed sustainability content. To be honest, we have not had that discussion from a strategic point of view. We are experimenting a little here. Having students involved in this process was vital to giving the proposal credibility. I can go and share these plans with other instructors and say that students were behind this and this is how they felt the course should be designed. That goes a long way to making these changes adoptable.

To see the full entry visit Introduction to Sustainable Business.

Graduate Certificate in Social Impact – 5 Questions with Cheryl Kernot from the Centre for Social Impact in Australia

The Centre for Social Impact (CSI) in Australia has a mission: to create beneficial social impact in Australia through teaching, research, measurement and the promotion of public debate. CSI brings together business, government, philanthropic and social sectors in a collaborative effort to build community capacity and facilitate social innovation. CSI is a partnership between the University of New South Wales, the University of Melbourne, Swinburne University of Technology and the University of Western Australia.

One of CSI’s primary offerings is the Graduate Certificate in Social Impact, which is open to students from the Centre’s different partner universities across the country. I recently had the chance to speak with Cheryl Kernot, Director of Social Business and head of teaching at the Centre for Social Impact, about the programme.

1. Why did you start the Graduate Certificate in Social Impact with the four different universities and how did you create it?

The decision to collaborate across four universities was made by the founding Board of the Centre for Social Impact. Their motivation was to increase knowledge of social impact for future business leaders, and they believed that business school courses were key to influencing this outcome in Australia.

The founding CEO of the Centre for Social Impact, based at the University of New South Wales in Sydney, made the initial contacts with the business schools of the two Melbourne partners, then one year later with the University of Western Australia School of Business. We are reviewing whether we might expand delivery of the Graduate Certificate through other partner universities in the future.

2. What is the Graduate Certificate in Social Impact and how has it been received?

The Graduate Certificate in Social Impact is a comprehensive ‘pracademic’ post-graduate qualification for emerging leaders across the government, business and social sectors. Students must complete four subjects from the six currently on offer. A seventh, Design for Social Innovation, will be added next year. The courses are:

·         Social Impact – Entrepreneurs and Social Innovation

·         Social Investment and Philanthropy

·         Leadership for Social Impact

·         Demonstrating Social Impact

·         Corporate Responsibility and Accountability

·         Social Impact Field Study

In 2011, we had approximately 70 students around the country enrolled in the Graduate Certificate. Students also take individual Graduate Certificate in Social Impact courses as part of other degrees, including MBA and Masters programs. Our students constantly give us a high evaluation on the course content and teaching, while providing regular feedback that they are applying their new learning in their existing workplaces or that it has driven their decision to seek a promotion using their new learning or to change jobs.

3. What were some of the challenges and how did you overcome them?

One challenge is that some universities include Graduate CSI courses in MBA teaching and therefore work on trimesters, whereas others work on semesters. So there’s a difference in the timing for the students. It was also a challenge for teachers at the beginning when cross partner teaching was required. Other challenges included generating agreement around course content, which involves having a program working group from all the partners, and meeting and reviewing content. Finally, its takes time to get course approval through universities. There is not much that can be done about that, other than being prepared.

4. What are your hopes moving forward?

First, students have requested that we articulate to a Masters in Social Impact reasonably soon. But a Masters, according to recent Federal Government changes, now involves 16 subjects. We need to reassess demand for a Masters, as the average cost is  now approaching $50,000. Second, I hope that we can work with other universities that have expressed interest in delivering the Graduate Certificate in Social Impact and exploring that potential.

5. What would you recommend for other schools in other countries thinking of doing a similar project or working with other schools on a common project.

I would recommend that a lot of exploratory conversation happen first about formal agreement around content and timetable delivery. I have found that what some business schools think is a relevant offering – because it includes the words corporate and sustainability – does not actually have the same focus on the social impact core element of our courses. Initial conversations and agreements are important.

Creating a cross-disciplinary course in sustainability: 5 Questions with David Szymanski and Rick Oches, Bentley University

The module “Will Corn Ethanol Fuel U.S. Energy Needs?” is the result of collaboration between Bentley University faculty in the natural sciences, economics, political science, and accounting departments that took place during a two-week summer workshop. The module provides students in a number of different courses with a brief introduction to ethanol and the ethanol industry in its full complexity.

Students use U.S. Department of Agricultural crop and production data – more than 500 total data points – to plot the change in variables over time. Later, they hypothesize about their relationships to broader agricultural, scientific, economic, and political forces. .  Instructors then contextualize core concepts from their own courses (e.g. Environmental Chemistry, American Government, Microeconomics) to help students gain perspective on a complex, multidisciplinary problem.

I recently had the chance to speak with David Szymanski and Rick Oches from the Department of Natural & Applied Sciences at Bentley University about this innovative course.

1. Why did you decide to start this cross-course module?

This module grew out of our work on a National Science Foundation (NSF) grant in the Course, Curriculum and Laboratory Improvement program. In the first summer workshop funded by the grant, we brought together faculty from different natural science disciplines to develop technology-enhanced laboratory and classroom modules that apply basic science concepts to real-world problems. Although most Bentley students major in business-related disciplines, part of our core mission is to integrate the liberal arts and sciences with the business curriculum. By teaching basic scientific concepts in the context of real-world problems, we are attempting to show students the importance of scientific literacy to business and society, as well as to their personal lives.

In the second round of workshops, we decided that those concepts extended to even larger multidisciplinary problems of sustainability, which are inextricably linked to other fields, like political science and economics. Because there are pedagogic challenges to teaching such interdisciplinary topics related to sustainability, which require individual faculty to teach well beyond their areas of expertise, and institutional barriers commonly limit opportunities for cross-disciplinary team-teaching, we recruited faculty from several disciplines to develop a cross-course module to overcome some of those challenges.

2. How did you go about creating it?

Before starting the workshop, we asked faculty members to consider issues of sustainability that crossed the boundaries of their respective fields. During the first few days of the workshop, we discussed those examples and described to one another where we saw significant overlap. We set goals and objectives for student learning as a group and decided that the “problem” of corn ethanol as an alternative fuel in the U.S. would allow us to highlight core concepts in our respective courses, while still allowing us to “connect the dots” across the curriculum. As a team, we worked to design, test and refine the common exercise during the remainder of the two-week workshop.

3. What were some of the challenges and how did you overcome them?

The first challenge was finding the right faculty members to take part in the workshop.  In order to form a successful team, you need faculty that are not only motivated to teach at the boundaries of their disciplines, but they must also be willing to try new pedagogies to teach about inherently messy interdisciplinary problems. We found a number of them who were willing to do both, even though they were apprehensive about the outcome or their abilities to contribute. Another issue expressed by some participants was the concern that some material must be cut from their course in order to accommodate the new activity. After some reassurance and discussion at the start of the workshop, we found that enthusiasm quickly dispelled the apprehension and we had a remarkably competent team.

Another major and ongoing challenge is assessment of student learning. In the first year of employing the module, we used an essay-based pre/post test to see how well students were making connections among the disciplines and how well they could apply those ideas to concepts like unintended consequences. In a preliminary review of the results, we’re seeing that students do gain content knowledge, but it’s not apparent that they can effectively describe the complex web of connections between science, policy, economics, etc. Although the results may mean the module is not having as large of an impact as we’d like, it’s equally possible that students don’t understand our assessment questions completely – how do you ask a student to describe the complexity of an issue in terms of different disciplines? Since the questions are necessarily complex, there may also be an issue of student fatigue with the assessment essay format. We’re still working on overcoming this challenge.

4. What have been some of your successes? How has the module been received?

There has been significant interest in the module by many faculty members outside of the core group that designed it and by faculty at other institutions. After running a teaching workshop on sustainability this past spring, where we introduced a broader group of faculty to the exercise, we’ve had excellent discussions on how to expand the reach of our work further, involving faculty from other business and arts and science disciplines.  Anecdotally, students have responded well to the module and seem to like the multidisciplinary aspects and the “current-events” relevance of the complex problem.

5. What are your plans/hopes for the programme moving forward and what advice would you give to other schools thinking of creating a similar module?

We plan to expand the core group of faculty employing the module in the coming year after making some enhancements to the module and the assessment tools. Ideally, we would like to encourage the business and the arts and science faculties to work more closely together on these types of modules that contextualize issues of sustainability across the curriculum.

In terms of advice, find a way to incentivize faculty to take a large block of time for curriculum development and leave plenty of time for philosophical discussions. Have the group that creates the module set goals and objectives for student learning; this helps guide the curriculum development when the topic is a broad and complex issue. Last but not least, expect difficulties in developing summative assessments of student learning.

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