California State University, Long Beach
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On Course For Sustainability

Published: August 17, 2015

Part of the university’s role is to help its students become more aware of their own potential to impact the world around them–both positively and negatively. Educating students in the classroom about the concept of sustainability is one way to achieve this goal. And, while some courses may easily lend themselves to discussions of sustainability, finding ways to make those connections in others may not always be so obvious.

That’s where the CSULB Faculty Green Thread Workshop comes in. The workshop is being held on Friday, Sept. 11, from 10 a.m.- 4 p.m., in the Multicultural Center, FO-3, Room 2. It is a voluntary curriculum enhancement program sponsored by CSULB’s Sustainability Task Force and supported by the campus’ Energy and Sustainability Office and the Center for Community Engagement.

The hands-on workshop, which will be the fourth such event of its kind at CSULB, is led by Ezra LeBank, a professor of movement in the Department of Theater Arts, and is designed to help faculty learn methods for connecting sustainability concepts and ideas to core concepts in their own disciplines. It also brings together engaged faculty members from diverse disciplines to explore ways to enhance student understanding of the interconnectedness of environmental, social and economic issues.

“The workshop aims to build a thread of sustainability across university curriculum,” said LeBank.

“We’re trying to reach out to faculty all across campus so everyone knows sustainability is applicable to every discipline. Even though some faculty may not think so at first, there is a way to infuse sustainability into what they are teaching,” said Holli Fajack, Sustainability Coordinator in Physical Planning and Facilities Management (PPFM). “One of the best parts about the workshop is that participants get to meet faculty from other departments and spend a whole day exploring how sustainability relates to different fields of study. The connections they make and the discussions they have don’t necessarily happen in any other venue.”

The most recent workshop held in January was attended by faculty from 10 departments across six colleges—liberal arts, business administration, art, engineering, natural sciences and math, and health and human services.

Past participants have commented that one of the things they found most beneficial about the program is the opportunity it provides to explore different perspectives of sustainability and collaborate with faculty from outside their own departments with whom they may not otherwise have the chance to interact.

Participants at the January Green Thread workshop.

“The workshop was really, really good at giving us different resources, different sustainability themes and different types of activities that we could incorporate into our class,” said Ebony Utley, an associate professor in CSULB’s Department of Communication Studies, who attended the January workshop and immediately incorporated concepts into the course she was teaching during the semester. She has since redesigned it to be a sustainability course for the fall.

“Once I could see what the sustainability goals were it wasn’t really difficult to think about the assignment a little differently to meet those goals,” she added. “Sustainability has a lot to do with culture and appreciating different cultures. Sustainability is about awareness in a lot of ways and that’s also part of what we do in communications—sharing information, raising awareness about different things and that sustainability is about responsibility. I didn’t know much about sustainability, but after the workshop it was just one of those things that became important to me.”

Participants are asked to come to the workshop with one or two courses in mind that they are looking to improve on or infuse sustainability into.

“It’s good to see the different perspectives that faculty bring from their own backgrounds and disciplines,” said Fajack. “Everybody has their own way of thinking about sustainability and that’s kind of the point; that it’s applicable to whatever you’re doing and we should be teaching students that as well.”

To learn more about the workshop and/or sign up for the Sept. 11 event, e-mail by Friday, Sept. 4.