Making sustainability second nature

April 5, 2017

New fellowship and workshop for faculty members helps integrate sustainability into classrooms

Is sustainability really an interdisciplinary concept? Carolyn Ives thinks it is, and she’s hoping to see more professors tackling the topic in the classroom. After all, sustainability is one of the pillars of MacEwan University.

As MacEwan’s curriculum planning and development coordinator, Carolyn wants to grow the number of courses with sustainability-related learning outcomes—and that doesn’t just include environmental conservation.

The Centre for the Advancement of Faculty Excellence (CAFÉ) has developed a fellowship and workshop that will guide faculty members through the process of creating course outlines that highlight cultural, economic, environmental and social resilience. As a result, faculty members will have the tools they need to make sustainable learning outcomes a reality.

"We really want people to think about the big sustainability issues that are prevalent in each discipline because every discipline has different kinds of sustainability issues,” says Carolyn. That could mean Indigenizing the curriculum in history classes or reducing waste in biology labs.

While environmental conservation tends to be the most prominent pillar of sustainability, Carolyn notes that several MacEwan courses lend themselves to the social side of the concept.

"Because we have so many programs in nursing and health and community studies, a lot of our best sustainability initiatives are coming from those areas," she says. “The new social work degree also has a sustainability focus.”


image-SUSTFEB-NURSING1Related: Cross-cultural collaboration creates international nursing community

While there are some classes that zero in on sustainability, that focus is nowhere near ubiquitous. Carolyn hopes to change that by making it clear to faculty members that sustainability applies to everyone.

Upon completing the workshop, faculty members will have a few months to put together a new course outline that makes sustainability a priority. Once their outlines are approved, they’ll receive funding to purchase sustainability-related resources for their class.

When sustainability is integrated into the curriculum, students get a better grasp of how the concept applies to their studies.

"We want the ethical components of sustainability to be second nature in our courses because when you don't incorporate them fully—when they're mentioned as add-ons—they stick out as things that students don’t see as important," says Carolyn. "The concepts have to be integrated into the curriculum as a regular part of the course in order for students to see how it's relevant to their discipline and their lives."

Changes to curricula tend to happen slowly and gradually, but changing the way students and faculty members think about sustainability could have huge impacts. 

Faculty members interested in applying for the fellowship can email their application to Carolyn at by April 15.

Read more stories from the Office of Sustainability:

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