Over 20 Courses Toward the Sustainability Minor Offered this Fall

Post Contributed by Dr. Nanette Chadwick, Director of Academic Sustainability Programs

Academic Sustainability Programs has prepared a listing of all courses in the Minor in Sustainability Studies that will be offered this summer and fall semesters, as well as related courses that are not yet officially in the minor.

This summer, 5 courses will be offered, mostly online but some in person on campus. During the fall semester, a range of 21 courses spanning 7 colleges on campus will be offered. These may be used toward the Minor in Sustainability Studies, as free electives, or in some cases as part of your core curriculum requirements.

To see details of the Academic Sustainability course offerings and download a handy reference document, click here.

Also for a complete listing of all sustainability-related courses on campus, including those in various majors across all colleges, see the Academic Sustainability Program’s campus-wide course inventories by clicking here.

Please feel free to contact Dr. Chadwick by email if you have any questions about upcoming courses related to sustainability, as you plan your summer and fall course schedules.

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Get Paid to Make a Difference

We’re seeking 6 students to join our team for the 2019-20 academic year!

All student staff will be involved in a variety of individual & team projects, & are expected to work 10 hours per week when classes are in session.
In applying specific knowledge, skills, & talents, student staff will:
  • be part of a team to cultivate & spread an ethic & practice of sustainability;
  • take a leadership role in sustainability projects on campus;
  • serve as a liaison for the Office of Sustainability;
  • help with office support duties;
  • assist with the campus battery recycling program;
  • attend a weekly staff meeting;
  • attend a weekly team meeting; &
  • attend sustainability trainings & other events.
Successful candidates will be self-motivated, team-oriented, collaborative, detail-oriented, & capable of independent work.
Positions are open to students from any academic discipline, who will have sophomore, junior, or senior standing.
Positions currently accepting applications within the Office of Sustainability include:
Job candidates should submit an application under EACH position for which they want to be considered.
All positions pay a living wage.  Work study students are encouraged to apply.
If you’re interested, please apply via the position announcement(s) on Handshake.  Interested applicants will need to include the following uploads with their application:

1. transcript (unofficial copy is fine);
2. resumé, including name and contact info for at least one on-campus reference;
3. a cover letter describing your interest in the position & your relevant experience; &
4. a work sample highlighting skills in writing, design, OR videography.

Application deadline is 5:00 pm, Thursday, February 28th.

For questions, please feel free to contact our office.

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Over The Rainbow – Sustainability in New Zealand

Post contributed by By Mary Jo Berkstresser, Senior in Natural Resources Management

I love nature. I have always loved being outside and surrounding myself with the beauty and might of the outdoors. Because of this, I decided to go to Auburn to get a degree in Natural Resources Management in order to better preserve nature for future generations. The summer before my senior year, I was given the opportunity to study abroad in New Zealand.

New Zealand Rainbow
Photo Credit: Mary Jo Berkstresser

This trip was designed to show how sustainability is done in another country as well as explore the emerging field of ecotourism. Ecotourism is a form of tourism that is considered more “green” than mainstream tourism. There are four main components of ecotourism: nature based, economically viable, educational, and culturally appropriate.

Never having been to New Zealand before, I wasn’t sure what to expect. All I knew was that Lord of the Rings was filmed there. As muchas I love Tolkien, I didn’t figure it was a good indicator for the trip. The scenic beauty captured in the films was only a fraction as astounding as being able to see the country in real life.

We travelled across the South Island moving from city to city. I was surprised to learn that in each place there were some features that are simple but sustainable. The electrical outlets each have an on/off switch to cut down on wasted electricity, the hotels have eco-friendly toiletries, and the public bathrooms don’t have paper towels. As insignificant as these may seem, they really can make a difference when it is an entire country that makes the change.

The activities we did varied in degree of sustainability/ecotourism. The first tour we did was with a group that had an exclusive deal with some of the local farmers. The farmers have beach front property that is prime habitat for some of the nation’s rarest species. This company is allowed to bring tourists in to see these amazing animals, and in return they pay the farmers for the use of their land. Not only do they bring in tourists, but they also help restore the land to its natural state with native plants and invasive pest removal.

The guides on the tour were amazingly informative. They gave detailed information on each animal we encountered and answered any questions we may have had. Their passion for restoring the environment was refreshing, and their willingness to work with the farmers was awesome. It was an awesome example of ecotourism, except for the fact that they gave us an unwarrantedly large amount of bottled water. I understand that hydration is important and they may have some rules and regulations in place, but bottled water is unnecessary and plastic bottles endanger the very species they are trying to protect.

The least ecotourism-conscious place we went was Queenstown. Everyone we talked to from New Zealand mentioned how little New Zealanders (or Kiwis) actually lived there. The town was a mecca for adrenaline junkies. There were so many extreme activities to participate in such as bungee jumping, canyon swinging, and sky diving. While we were there we rode the gondola. It was an amazingly beautiful ride, but the track that the gondola went along was not very well kept up and there were places where you could see the beginnings of gulley erosion This type of erosion usually occurs on inclines where water is not allowed to drain properly and can lead to deep ruts.

The entire time in New Zealand we had been hearing about the Maori people, the ones who originally settled the land. They had been decimated by the Europeans when they settled.It was nice to hear from each tour how important the Maori were then and are now, but hearing about a group and hearing from a group are two very different things. Cultural sustainability is one of the key components of ecotourism which is why we attended a traditional Maori dinner the last night in New Zealand. We were able to meet a group of Maori people and learn about the culture.

Before coming to New Zealand, I had believed that it was some paradise that existed over the rainbow. A place that was lightyears ahead in sustainability and ecotourism. Having been there, I can say that in some ways this is true. I saw more recycling bins on sidewalks than I ever had before. Sure there are some places that are less ecofriendly, but the country on the whole is trying to be more sustainable. It may take some time, but I believe that more changes can be made even in places like Queenstown. But I can also say that it’s not perfect. Then again nowhere is.

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Sustainability Course Offerings Spring 2019

Post contributed by Dr. Nanette Chadwick, Academic Sustainability Programs, Director

More than 20 courses are being offered toward the Minor in Sustainability Studies during Spring Semester 2019, spread across 8 colleges on campus. Most of them can also be used as free electives, or even toward students’ majors. Academic Sustainability Programs has posted online a guide to sustainability electives that details the time each course is offered, who is teaching it, and which of the 3 major areas in sustainability are covered: Society & Markets (Economic Systems), Environment (Natural Systems), and/or Social Justice (Social Systems).

Also included in the pdf file is the pattern of course offerings over the past 3 years, to show which semesters each course typically tends to be offered. This information assists students in planning their long-range course schedules and when to count on take particular sustainability-related courses prior to graduation. 

Of particular interest is SUST 2000 Introduction to Sustainability Studies, which can be used as an option toward the Social Science Core. SUST 2000 enrolled >140 students this fall; early registration is advised for spring, as this course fills quickly.  

Faculty: If you are interested in joining the interdisciplinary team of instructors who co-teach SUST 2000 next year (as a paid course overload, or a buyout of your in-load teaching), let us know.  And if would like to have your course approved as a minor elective, please submit the application for course elective form on our website.

Students: if you find other courses on campus that are related to sustainability and which you would like to inform us about, please let us know. Also, if you would like to use other courses as electives toward the minor, we may be able to approve them as minor elective substitutes for you.

Special note: If you are completing the minor and plan to take SUST 5000 in the spring, you will need to contact us for permission to enroll in that course. Best to do that sooner than later, as we can enroll you before your official registration date. 

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Gathering around Global Goals at the 2018 Sustainability Conference

Photo of Office of Sustainability Staff & Interns at the 2018 AASHE Conference.
Office interns and staff pause for a group photo at the 2018 AASHE Conference in Pittsburgh, PA.

Here in the Office of Sustainability, the goal of our internship program is to transform our student interns into sustainability practitioners who are equipped to lead others in solving the sustainability challenges our world is facing. One of the most powerful professional development experiences we provide is the opportunity to attend the premier conference for sustainability in higher education. Hosted by the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education, the 2018 conference’s theme was Global Goals: Rising to the Challenge. The diversity of interests from those in our office resulted in a wide range of takeaways from the conference, which we would like to share with you.  

Amy Strickland: Program Manager in the Office of Sustainability

Having attended AASHE for multiple years, I wanted to pursue a different strategy as to how I selected sessions to attend this year.  After reflecting on my own knowledge-base and experience, I realized I needed to improve my understanding of how inclusion and diversity connect to the field of sustainability.  As such, I ended up attending sessions tied to inclusion & diversity for most of the conference and can say it made a real impact on how I see myself, my privileges, and the work of our office.  As these concepts and ideas continue to percolate within me, I’m confident they will lead to shifts in not only how our office talks about inclusion, diversity, & sustainability, but more importantly about how our actions around hiring and event coordination can become more inclusive.      

Ben Luebkemann: Sustainability Intern studying Architecture

AASHE was an incredible opportunity to meet and learn from like-minded individuals who are making a sustainable impact in various fields.  The many challenges that the sustainability movement faces can, at times, become overwhelming. However, interacting with the network of committed individuals at AASHE was very inspiring and proved that sustainability is a global movement of passionate, change-seeking people.

Ferrell Sullivan: Sustainability Intern studying Environmental Design

During AASHE, more than anything, I gained an insight of how many people care and on how many levels these individuals care. This was uplifting and inspiring as a young individual who plans of living, working, and impacting sustainability throughout their life. AASHE brought a spark to me. I want to create outreach to those in my community of what sustainability is in the terms they will understand. This conference, that I was lucky to have the opportunity and means to attend with my relatively small office here in Auburn, exemplified to me that I as a student can make more changes on my campus than I think. Students have power. At one of the posters that myself and another intern viewed, we learned of an sustainable design based event that a student could put on. We stood there in awe then looked at each other in sync knowing we had to do this, especially since we are designers who are also event coordinating interns. This conference laid something in our laps that we could do to make a difference. But more than anything, it made me realize how many projects, actions, and activities there are around us in our everyday life that we can impact. AASHE enhanced how I think about life every day, in every action I make.

Ginny Lampkin: Sustainability Intern studying Biomedical Sciences

AASHE was an incredible opportunity to network with professionals in the sustainability field and learn new skills to use in our operations both at Auburn and as individuals. I enjoyed attending sessions about composting, which I would like to see happen at Auburn in the near future. I attended a session on decolonizing the farm to table dinner, which was especially insightful. A group from the University of North Carolina in Asheville spoke about their experiences transforming their farm to table dinner into an inclusive space to discuss issues their community and its members faced. I think food is one of the best ways to bring people together, and tweaking the farm-to-table concept towards inclusion is brilliant. I hope that we can do something like that when Auburn opens the new community garden space behind the Jule Collins Mus

Jennifer Morse:  Communications and Outreach in the Office of Sustainability

With the theme for this year’s conference being Global Goals: Rising to the Challenge, it’s no wonder my biggest takeaway is the importance of framing Auburn University’s accomplishments within the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), also known as the 17 Goals to Transform Our World. To transform the world we can start right here in Alabama focusing on our mission as a land-grant institution, to serve ‘all Alabamians as the State becomes a part of a global society with all of its challenges and opportunities’. Our university already makes substantial contributions in Alabama, as well as globally. We would heighten the profile of Auburn University by communicating our accomplishments within the framework that the world is using, the SDGs. I challenge you to identify those SDGs that address issues you care about.

Graphic of the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals

It’s not just time to get on board with these 17 Goals to Transform Our World, it’s time to lead the way through the innovative research Auburn is doing, the courses we teach, the student organizations and other opportunities that we create here at Auburn. It’s with urgency that we need to think both locally and globally, take action where our passion and skills can make the greatest difference, and transform our future into one that serves all people and living beings everywhere. It’s time for each and every one of us to look at what we are doing in both our professional and personal lives, and take actions to create the future the world needs.

Katy Duncan: Sustainability Intern studying Industrial Design

AASHE taught me the critical, undeniable, and largely unnoticed relationship between sustainability and social justice. I knew that society and wellbeing were facets of sustainability, but being made aware of the magnified effects that environmental efforts (or the lack thereof) have on the poorest in our world was jarring. I am walking away from AASHE with a more holistic, challenged, and urgent view on the state of the planet, our human race, and my role within those.

Michaela Walton: Sustainability Intern studying Communications, Sustainability Minor

AASHE was intimidating at first because I had never been to a conference before. I was expecting to meet accomplished sustainability advocates who had all of the answers tucked away in a business casual pantsuit. Refreshingly enough, AASHE was packed with accomplished people who readily admitted that they didn’t have all of the answers! Being surrounded by those who admitted their failures and difficulties as easily as their accomplishments reassured me that sustainability is a difficult field to work in but it makes big and small successes even sweeter.

Mike Kensler: Director of the Office of Sustainability

My takeaway from AASHE this year is that more and more colleges and universities are finding the path to renewable energy; and through renewables, alternative fuel vehicles, and energy efficiency measures, are taking their commitments to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions seriously.

Sadie Gurkin: Sustainability Intern studying Environmental Design and Pre-Landscape Architecture, Sustainability Minor

AASHE was such a remarkable experience, one that I am so grateful to have been afforded to me.  In our relatively small office here at Auburn it is easy to be fooled into believing that we are on a sole island campaigning for these issues that mean so much to each of us. Being at AASHE, It was incredible to see just how off base those feelings are and be surrounded by so many with the same passion and drive for sustainability, getting a chance to catch a glimpse into their own personal drives and ambitions. One take away that most hit home to me came in a session discussing student campaigns for 100% renewable campuses. I find myself often feeling inadequate, worrying that I don’t have expertise to successfully form something as in depth as a plan for campus wide renewable energy. In this session, it was stressed that taking the initiative to advocate for a plan was just as important and beneficial as the ability to make a plan. This mentality stuck with me and is one I hope to translate into many areas of my life going forward.

Taylor Kraabel: Sustainability Intern studying Industrial and Systems Engineering

The biggest piece of information I took away from AASHE was the challenges involved with actively engaging the student community. Many of the presenters stated this as an obvious obstacle, but they also shared differing ideas on how they chose to deal with this. For instance, one presenter discussed her campus’s “Fix It” event, where students were encouraged to bring broken shoes, bikes, etc. and learn how to fix them. Instead, the event ended up being more focused on “Hey come get your stuff fixed for free”. Overall, AASHE shed more light on how hard it is to get people to care about sustainability.

Bailey Rathmann: Sustainability Intern studying Biosystems Engineering

Sustainability is a part of everyone of our lives because of the interconnectedness of each faction of sustainability. The best way to get people involved in sustainable practices is to cater it to them and make it personal. The world is changing very fast, but with everyone doing their part a sustainable world can be achieved.

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