For the last four years, USU has hosted the Planetary Thinking conference in May, which invites teachers and students from every discipline to learn about the resources they need to teach sustainability.
Sustainability in the face of climate change has been an “all hands-on deck” topic at Utah State University since former USU President Stan Albrecht signed the American College and University President’s Climate commitment in 2007. This promises that USU will become a carbon-neutral university by the year 2020.
“This event is put together by a panel of representatives from different disciplines,” said Mark Lee-Koven, one of the workshop coordinators.
Alexi Lamm, president of the Sustainability Council, said that it is their goal to give students the resources they need to understand climate change in their field before they leave USU.
“We want them to have ideas to handle the changes in sustainability no matter what their career is,” Lamm said.
The Planetary Thinking conference has involved over 40 faculty members who reach more than 5,000 students each year. Faculty from each of USU’s eight colleges engage in shared brainstorming and learn how to better incorporate economic, social and environmental sustainability into their teaching.
“We put a big focus on recognizing big problems,” said John Ferguson, another coordinator at USU. “Everyone from the arts to engineering all come together to have a better chance at solving these big problems.”
Lamm said that it is important to the faculty to learn how to develop better teaching tools with the changing landscape.
The faculty members spend the day learning how to make changes and additions to their course content and create a community of learning around the local and global literacy of sustainability.
After submitting proposals for courses they would like to create or alter, participants create their game plan for the upcoming year and then submit documentation of their work. The following fall, faculty discuss the process and present posters on their courses to the campus, students and sustainability council.
“When you import the information and contextualize it within a students’ discipline, they will have a greater impact,” Lee-Koven said.
Earlier this year, the Faculty Senate unanimously approved a recommendation from Patrick Belmont to reduce greenhouse gases. Some of Belmont’s ideas included partnering with the city of Logan and the community, hiring a staff member to oversee resources and information on climate change and expanding the Blue Goes Green program to all regional campuses.
With 2020 drawing closer and the United Nations reporting only 11 years left to avert environmental catastrophe, educators at USU are working hard to educate about sustainability, initiate environmentally-friendly practices and adapt to the changing landscape.
“We can lead by example,” Belmont said in February. “Students want to see this change and want to see the university do something about it.”