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Bringing Sustainability Lessons into the Classroom

UAlbany is looking at ways to improve student involvement in sustainability, including developing new courses and offering general education credit. (Photo by Connor Murphy, Albany Student Press)

ALBANY, N.Y. (May 20, 2016) -- The Office of Environmental Sustainability has a straightforward charge at UAlbany: to coordinate and advance sustainability efforts on campus. This is accomplished by engaging students, faculty and staff to find ways to conserve resources, build energy-efficient facilities, and help the University operate in an environmentally accountable manner. They work across many areas of the university to do this, including curriculum, operations, research and engagement.

Perhaps no aspect of the work is as important as teaching students to become responsible stewards of the Earth. Last month, more than 30 professionals representing 22 different departments and organizations came together to discuss how sustainability education can be incorporated into our current offerings. “We worked to answer the following questions: what do we want our students to learn about sustainability in their professional career and personal life skills, and what are the best mechanisms and tools to accomplish the goal of integrating sustainability in the curriculum?” said Mallia.

Attendees participated in a conversation mapping exercise to develop answers to those questions. Some common themes identified were: becoming contributors to the greater good, gaining an appreciation for interconnectedness, biodiversity and improving public health, and thinking about consequences of actions.

The group also brainstormed the pathways that could be used to meet these sustainability learning objectives for our students via academic instruction. Possible actions include developing co-taught courses that foster sustainability engagement, and building sustainability into Challenges of the 21st Century general education credit.

The forum was joint effort between faculty, staff and students that was coordinated by the Office of Sustainability and the University Senate with support from the Office of the Provost, Student Association and Graduate Student Association.

The Office of Sustainability has created a THINKGREEN list serve for those that wish to stay informed of these efforts. If interested, contact the office at gogreen@albany.edu.

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A comprehensive public research university, the University at Albany offers more than 120 undergraduate majors and minors and 125 master's, doctoral, and graduate certificate programs. UAlbany is a leader among all New York State colleges and universities in such diverse fields as atmospheric and environmental sciences, business, criminal justice, emergency preparedness, engineering and applied sciences, informatics, public administration, social welfare, and sociology taught by an extensive roster of faculty experts. It also offers expanded academic and research opportunities for students through an affiliation with Albany Law School. With a curriculum enhanced by 600 study-abroad opportunities, UAlbany launches great careers.